Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-21, an act to amend the Customs Act. Once enacted, this legislation would create an entry/exit program to keep track of when Canadians enter and leave the country. It is a measure I support. In fact, it was our previous Conservative government that negotiated the beyond the border agreement, which included a provision to share entry and exit information with our close friend and ally, the United States.
It is important that our border services have the tools they need to keep Canadians safe, and this legislation would provide one of those tools. It is extremely unfortunate that while Bill C-21 would provide for added security at our borders, that security is being negatively impacted by the influx of illegal immigrants at our borders.
Canadians expect our refugee system to be safe, orderly and compassionate. Unfortunately, what we have seen under the Liberal government is insecurity, chaos and a lack of sincere empathy. Thousands of illegal, or irregular, as Liberals call them, border crossings have occurred since the Prime Minister irresponsibly tweeted “#WelcomeToCanada” in January 2017. As a direct result of that, twice as many refugees are being admitted into Canada as the system was designed to handle.
While I do not want to cast blanket aspersions, some of those coming into our country may very well have criminal records. Without proper background checks, which cannot be done before one crosses illegally, persons who pose a safety risk to our citizens may be slipping into Canada.
The newly appointed Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction certainly has his hands full taking on the huge task of trying to stem the tide. Only time will tell if this new minister can, in fact, effectively take control of this illegal and dangerous situation. He has not so far.
This queue jumping we are seeing has also created an unfair situation, whereby those waiting in refugee camps or facing persecution in dangerous places around the world must wait longer as more and more scarce resources are being spent processing people who are just jumping across the border with the United States. This two-tiered system is compromising the integrity of our entire immigration system while putting those patiently waiting to be legally approved to come to Canada at even further risk.
It is not compassionate, nor fair, when individuals who have been brought here on humanitarian grounds are forced to live in homeless shelters, university dormitories and tent cities, because this country is ill-prepared to handle such volumes of asylum seekers.
The Syrian refugees, who a majority of Canadians overwhelming supported being brought here, have faced housing shortages, particularly in Toronto and Montreal. The mayors of these two large cities recognize that, as well as the newly elected Ontario Conservative government, and they have been requesting federal financial assistance to redress this situation. Saskatchewan and Manitoba have also asked for some additional funding.
To date, the Liberal government's only solution, as it is with so many other issues, has been to use more taxpayers' dollars to manage the crisis instead of resolving the issue with a fully costed plan. Just last week, the Parliamentary Budget Officer confirmed that if left unaddressed, this crisis will cost Canadian taxpayers $1.1 billion by 2020, not including the hundreds of millions of dollars incurred by the provinces.
My Conservative colleagues and I will continue to call for policy solutions that go beyond simply spending more money and adding new ministers to the fold. We want to see our immigration system run on a safe, orderly and compassionate basis that prioritizes the world's most vulnerable and ensures that when refugees are brought to this country, we indeed have the ability to help support them.
We do not, and will not, support the newly signed United Nations global compact on migration. While the immigration minister has tried to defend this compact, calling it an effective way to address migration challenges worldwide, Canadians really would not know, as the Liberal government did not bother to consult or brief them at all in regard to the United Nations global compact. In fact, if it had not been for this side of the House, this compact would have been quietly signed by the Liberals, and Canadians would have been left completely in the dark.
As a direct result, many questions and concerns remain, such as whether Canada is surrendering our sovereignty. That is a good question. What are the costs associated with this compact? What exactly does some of the language found in the compact mean, such as “sensitizing and educating” Canadian journalists on how they should report on migration issues?
Conservatives believe that Canadian journalists should be free to scrutinize the government on immigration policy without influence from an international body and without being bought out, to the tune of $600 million, which is the Liberal government's other plan.
Canadians, rightfully, deserve answers to these questions. I know that the constituents in my riding of Battle River—Crowfoot expect and deserve those answers. I have been receiving letters, emails and telephone calls ever since this issue was brought to the front.
I would like to read a portion of an email that I know all members received:
“I am a 58-year-old female born and raised in Canada. I spent over two decades travelling across this great country, from Newfoundland to B.C. and north to Yellowknife. For my work, I spent weeks in towns, cities and rural areas meeting people of different faiths, races and creeds. Nowhere did I see the kind of racism and hate the Prime Minister thinks he needs to 'quell'....
“My only concern is the U.N.'s global migration pact. This agreement is the most destructive piece of literature I have ever read. It will be the end of our great country and the last nail in the coffin of free speech in Canada. This has been hidden on purpose, and after I read this rambling strait jacket of so-called agreement, I understood why. Something so divisive, damaging and horrendous to the future of Canada and it citizens should have been on the front page of every newspaper and magazine in the country.... If it wasn't so sad, I would give a round of applause to our Prime Minister for hiding it so well....
The letter goes on:
“...stunned that there was no vote for us to voice our objections, and they were against signing Canada to it!.... The PM of course, was voted to represent the people of this country, but more and more he decides what this country should look like.”
While time has not allowed me to read this email in its entirety, I would like to finish by quoting a few last words:
“Canada has had decades of peaceful and orderly immigration. Allowing our borders to be open and under the control of the U.N., and not our own government, is the death of our country. What is a country without a border to stop people that may do us harm? We should be the ones to say who, what and why people and things may cross into our country. And this document says that the government will quell or silence any disagreement or negative comments....”
If members on all sides of this House have not yet read the email from Ms. Lori Gagne and Mr. Gunter Retzer sent to them on December 6, I urge them to do so and to please really listen to what they have said, because their sentiments are being expressed by many Canadians.
In closing, I would like to once again state my support for Bill C-21, because I agree with Lori and Gunter that our borders should be under the control of our government.
I would also like to take just a moment to express, as the member for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman did earlier, the overwhelming sense of loss I am experiencing right now as I stand in this place for the last time until the renovations are done, which is expected to take 10 to 12 years. I have had renovations done in our home that I thought would last six months, and they lasted way longer. I know that when governments do renovations, it typically takes even longer than they expect.
I have spent 18 wonderful years in this amazing chamber, both as part of the government and as part of the opposition. Whichever side of the House I have been on, it has been a real honour and privilege to have been granted the opportunity to rise in this place, time and time again, to debate, to question and to provide answers to questions. I have tried to do so with the utmost respect for this institution and with the sole purpose of trying, to the best of my ability, to represent the constituents of Battle River—Crowfoot.
While I look forward to coming back after Christmas and going into our new chamber in West Block, it is not going to be the same without the amazing architecture, the history and the debates that have taken place in this chamber. I will forever carry with me the memories and the nostalgia of rising in this place to utter the words, “Mr. Speaker”, although I will do it in the other chamber.
I thank the House for the privilege of being able to stand here and speak to Bill C-21, and for the opportunity to just be nostalgic about this beautiful chamber.