MASSE IN THE HOUSE: Speech on Conservative's Bill C-43, Immigration and Deportation Concerns

Government Orders

[Government Orders]

* * *

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act

The House resumed consideration of the motion that
Bill C-43, An Act to amend
the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
, be read a second time
and referred to a committee.

 

Mr. Brian Masse
(Windsor West, NDP)
:

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join today's debate on
Bill C-43,
an act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. The government has
tagged it with new lines, calling it the faster removal of foreign criminals
act. It is unfortunate that these types of titles have now been introduced into
legislation that is supposed to be very serious. This one is very serious. It
is a continuation of our immigration drift.

We are going to support the bill to get it to
committee because as New Democrats we believe our immigration system is
fundamentally flawed and broken, and we are open to discussing how to improve
it in any capacity. Some of the issues in the bill are going to be raised, and
we will have some good expert testimony at committee to talk about these
issues.

It is important to note that our immigration system
is necessary in our country for us to function in an economic democracy. We do
not have a population that can sustain itself alone.

We have been founded on the principles of
multiculturalism and openness. That is changing because we are slowly eroding
our immigration system. In fact, even in Windsor West, the riding I represent,
I have an immigration office. The doors are shut. People cannot go there to get
help on their immigration files.

Karen Boyce and Ian Bawden are in my office. Karen
has been with me for 10 years and is finally going to retire at the end of
December. I thank her for her commitment in all the cases she has strove
through. In fact, many times on her own time she would actually get up in the
middle of the night to call an embassy somewhere else to try to get paperwork
or something processed. She would do that, literally, all the time. That is how
dedicated she is. She has fought many times to have children pulled off planes,
who were going to be deported to countries of which they never were actually
part. They were born in Canada and their parents had been denied or their
process for humanitarian grounds had not been accepted.

It is unfortunate, because when we look at an
economy like ours in Windsor, it is critical that we have these processing
issues taken care of rather quickly because we have so many people who cross
the border into the United States.

I always use this example because I think it is
important. We have a lot of doctors and other professionals who are not
recognized in Canada and in Ontario who end up working over in Detroit,
Michigan, and bringing that economic income stream back to our area.
Ironically, sometimes when our hospitals are full here, or there is a specialty
that we do not have, we send Canadian citizens over to those hospitals where
they can be treated by the doctor who is not trusted over here in Canada. It is
ironic that we pay a premium for it.

What is important is that we have many people who
cannot get to their jobs until their actual immigration and processing have
been completed. Often if we do not solve these cases they can lose those jobs.
Those jobs are critical for our economy. The Canadian economy is not having the
rebound we want, and I see it every single day on the streets of Windsor, so
any extra employment that we can access in the United States is important. It
has been a common thing that we have been doing for many years. It is one of
the reasons we have a strong and healthy relationship. It is a symbiotic
relationship between the Detroit greater region and Windsor Essex County. In
fact it makes it a good economic strong hub. Part of that is the ability to
traverse back and forth. Our immigration system is not contributing to success.

One of features of the bill that gives me some
cause for concern is the concentration of power into the minister's office. At
any time he can revoke or shorten the effective period of declaration for
admissibility. That is one particular example.

The reason I am concerned is that I remember during
the debate on Bill C-31, which was a refugee act that was changed, listening to
the minister and the government members. The words they were using on Bill C-31
about the refugees in general were “protection”, “take advantage”, “security of
population“, “abuse”, “crackdown” and “bogus”. With that type of tone, what are
we going to have out of a minister's office that is going to have more
capabilities and less control on oversight if that is the general theme and
attitude about refugees?

I want to name a few refugees to Canada, because it
is important to put a human face on our refugees. They are people like K'naan.
He was born in Somalia. He spent his childhood in Mogadishu, lived there during
the Somalia civil war and came to Canada in 1991. Is a person like that a
threat? He is a refugee.

How about Adrienne Clarkson, our former Governor
General of Canada? She emigrated from Hong Kong as a refugee in 1942. She came
here, making her mark and contributing to Canada.

Fedor Bohatirchuk, a chess grandmaster who has
since passed away, was persecuted in the Ukraine. He came to Canada and
contributed for many years.

Sitting Bull, the Sioux chief, is an interesting
one. He left America for Canada as a holy man who led his people as a tribal
chief during the years of resistance in the United States. Sitting Bull eventually
came to Canada from the United States and became a successful citizen.

In looking at some of these issues, I want to touch
on one of the points that has been made with respect to criminal activity. Some
of the comments that have been made by professionals are important.

Michael Bossin, a refugee lawyer in Ottawa, spoke
about how those who have been convicted of an offence, even a small or lesser
offence, can now be deported outside of the country, which will put them further
at risk or in trouble. I used to work at the Multicultural Council. I had a
program called youth in action. I will talk a bit about that in a minute.
However, I want to mention that when refugees or youth commit crimes it is
sometimes a cry for help; sometimes it can be due to mental health; sometimes
it is just a really bad mistake; sometimes they do not have medication and it
could be due to psychological issues that are taking place. When they get into
programs that assist those people, they actually become better citizens and
better people who are more engaged and contribute to society on a regular
basis.

The issue of mental health in the general Canadian
public is swept aside, let alone when it involves those who are involved in a
criminal activity. It is important for judges to have more flexibility to be
able to determine the case. Before I get into the work we used to do, I want to
say that our judicial system has made some terrible mistakes. It is not
perfect. Mistakes can be made when decisions are being made with respect to
people. Maybe information is not presented properly, did not get there or was
inadmissible. As we know, those who have money will get the best lawyer they
can because they want the best representation. How many refugees in Canada are
walking around with a pile of cash and can hire the best lawyer? I have often
seen this issue come through my office. It is horrible that people have spent
money on lawyers by borrowing it from other people or using credit cards and
other types of things, which they find very difficult to repay because they do
not have that economic stream going at the moment, and that puts them in an
even worse situation. That is the harsh reality of our judicial system.

I want to talk a bit about the Multicultural
Council program that I ran. We had 16 to 18 youth at risk between the ages of
18 to 30. I know they are called youth, but it went all the way up to age 30.
However, they were usually in the 20-year range. We had eight Canadians who had
been in Canada basically all of their lives, who had made mistakes that created
a problem by way of a minor fine, a penalty or a criminal record. Then there
were eight new people who had just immigrated to Canada. We mixed them together
to create a program called multicultural youth in action wherein they did
community work, learned all kinds of life skills and conducted interviews. We
had an over 90% success rate at getting them back into school and/or
employment. When we think about it, that program ran for several years and was
very successful.

I will conclude with this. What we were able to do
with some of those youth, and I say some because we could not get them all, was
save taxpayers money because they were not going back into the judicial system
or going into the penal system, where they would actually learn more behaviours
and take a longer time to be rehabilitated, as opposed to paying the price for
what they had done and learning to contribute as a citizen.

 

Mr. Brian Masse:

Mr. Speaker, the reality is that not everybody is
perfect and sometimes people do make mistakes but what do we do as a society
about that? What do we do about the consequences on the other people who are affected?

I will read something from my staff, “One case that
came in the office today is a twenty nine year old gentleman from Serbia that
is being deported. All of his family live here in Canada now mother, sisters
and brother. He has been here 6 years and works at two jobs a restaurant and as
a home renovator for a local contractor. He has an H&C [a humanitarian and
compassionate ground appeal case] in but again that will not be seen for at
least another 3 years. He has no family in Serbia.

He is being deported. We have had more and more of
these cases.

What possible benefit would that have? We should
let the due process happen first before we send this man out of the country. He
has family here and we know there have been problems in Serbia before. They are
well documented in that region. What benefit will that be for our country to
throw this young man out?

 

Mr. Brian Masse:

Mr. Speaker, that is why I mentioned some of the
people who were refugees before. It is the tone that is being set and the
concerns I have about concentration in the back halls and the dark doors of the
minister, behind the scenes, and what could be said and done. We have already
heard some of this come out in the past.

The fact is that other refugees around the world
have played important roles. Bob Marley from Jamaica, for example, was a
refugee. Olivia Newton John's grandfather was a refugee. Jackie Chan, Jerry
Springer, Madeleine Albright, Henry Kissinger, Victor Hugo and Albert Einstein
were all refugees. My concern is the degree to which we could go on this and
having complete blind faith in the judicial system that could make a mistake
with somebody.

 

Mr. Brian Masse:

Mr. Speaker, it is terrible. We listen to the cases
every day of people coming in. We are talking about families that are being
broken apart. Sometimes there are children involved. If somebody has children
in this country, they are Canadian citizens. It is not the children's fault
that somebody else made decisions that have repercussions on them. Does that
mean that we throw them out? The answer is, yes, we do because if they do not
go with their parents they become wards of the state by themselves here. It is
horrible to see these cases because often it is just processing time.

With this bill, we are focusing our time and the
government is focusing its energy on the wrong types of things. We should get
the processing times in place so we can make right and fair decisions for
people.

 

Mr. Brian Masse
(Windsor West, NDP)
:

Mr. Speaker, one of my really big concerns about
the bill is how it is going to affect youth as well as its consequences on
other family members. What happens sometimes with refugees who come here is
that if the youth are not busy and active they can often find themselves in
cultural shock. Part of the program that I ran was to help mend the fences
around the cultural shock.

Alternatively, these youth fall in with other
groups and gang activity because they have nothing else. If they are not at
school or if they are out of work, they are in a percentage that is highly
vulnerable to being influenced by other people, especially when they do not
know a new country.

I would like my colleague to examine the issues of
vulnerability in the bill related to youth and families, especially when
concentrating so much power in the minister's office.