Mr. Claude Bachand (Saint-Jean, BQ)
Mr. Speaker, I do not imagine that you will be surprised to hear that the Bloc Québécois cannot support Bill C-49. Our disagreement has to do with this government's ongoing desire to move forward with its infamous law and order agenda. This has been clear since the Conservatives took power, and young offenders, among others, have paid the price. Quebec had a very high rehabilitation rate. We reintegrated young people into society. But the Conservative government found a way to try to undermine that and to send 15-, 16- and 17-year-olds to prison, to crime school. What matters to this government is law and order.
There is more proof. In the upcoming budget the government wants to invest huge amounts of money to build prisons in Canada. That will not solve the problem. The Americans tried and made this quite clear. This will not make our society safer. Putting people, and especially young people, in jail is not the answer. I could also go on about the abolition of the gun registry. The government is kind of adopting the American philosophy that you can go around with a rifle in your truck, and if someone threatens you, you can shoot. That is the American vision that is completely embraced by the Conservative Party.
The Khadr case is another prime example of a child soldier turned prisoner. This young man received no support and is still rotting away in a Guantanamo prison. This has been going on for years, and this government has ignored the international treaties that it signed itself regarding child soldiers.
This bill flies in the face of many things. To begin with, it flies in the face of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which I believe to be a very important tool in the Constitution. I feel as though the Conservative government would sometimes like to simply abolish the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That way, it could do whatever it likes and Canada could become not a military state, but a police state. The police would address any issues. This government sometimes gives the impression that it is blinded by its obsession with law and order, and we have to wonder why it introduces bills that fly in the face of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Khadr case that I mentioned is a typical example.
All of that is tied in with this government's foreign policy. And the Liberals are more or less on the same page, or maybe very much on the same page. Coalitions often seem to make sense these days, and they are all the rage. When we see that the government's foreign policy is drifting ever closer to militarism at the expense of Canada's traditional image—that of a charitable, open-minded nation and an international mediator—the picture is complete. And that is why, we feel, this bill is in that tradition of law and order. Law and order always comes first.
So, not only is our foreign policy no longer mediatory, but rather militaristic, but Canada is also pulling back. For example, Canada's assistance to African countries has been slashed. On today's news we learned that Canada is thinking of closing six embassies in Africa. And yet people are surprised and wonder why we did not get a seat on the UN Security Council. The answers are right in front of us. When Canada dismisses Arab nations and abandons African countries, and then goes and asks them to vote for Canada to get a seat on the UN Security Council, it should come as no surprise that they said no. So this fits into the same pattern, that is, the notion of law and order.
And what did the Conservatives do with regard to immigration, the matter before us now? As everyone knows, a ship arrived in British Columbia with about 500 Tamils on board.
So the Conservatives decided to tighten up the law and are indeed making it quite strict. They invented a new category of immigrants or refugees, known as “designated foreign nationals”. At present, approximately 500 of these designated foreign nationals are languishing in jails. So this is the new approach to immigration. Once again, they are tightening the nuts and bolts of law and order even further. It is really unfortunate, because it goes against the traditional image of Canadians and Quebeckers as very welcoming.
The way this was handled was not complicated. When the boat arrived, the first order of business was to demonize these people: there must have been terrorists on board somewhere. A type of phobia was created and public opinion was manipulated. Then, they tabled a harsh bill, which confirms the fact that the public finds this quite odd. Not only is the government creating a new category of immigrants, but it is going one step further and saying these people may be spending 12 months in prison. What a fine category of immigrants. These people flee one country thinking that Canada is a welcoming land. They arrive here and are put in prison for 12 months. They are no better off than they were at home. How does this look to the international community? This is what the government has done by demonizing these people. It has added unbelievable restrictions.
If those who fall into this new category are given refugee status, they will have to wait five years before applying for permanent residency. As far as the family reunification policy is concerned, a legal void is being created by this case. What will become of these people? What will they do while awaiting permanent resident status? What will their legal rights be? In the meantime, their applications will be reassessed and they might get sent back to their country if they are deemed unacceptable. They will not be able to travel outside Canada, either, or to apply for permanent residency or Canadian citizenship. Accordingly, the family reunification policy no longer applies because that right is being taken away from them.
Designated foreign nationals whose claim for protection is dismissed will be able to appeal only to the Federal Court, not to the Refugee Appeal Division. There are all kinds of new things here. They are pushing the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act even further and creating ways to keep people out. All of this is based on how people arrive in Canada, not on rulings in individual cases. Usually, each case is ruled on individually. Each case is investigated, and those who are granted refugee status can stay here until they are granted permanent residence. They will not have access to the same health care benefits as other people, which is yet another legal vacuum. They will exist in a kind of no man's land. Nobody knows exactly how this whole thing will turn out.
Unbelievably, at this very moment, 350 men are imprisoned in the Fraser Centre in Maple Ridge, British Columbia. Another 50 are in the Alouette facility, and some 100 women and children are in jail too. Yes, it is a minimum security facility, but it is still a jail.
That is why the Bloc Québécois cannot support this kind of bill, which would restrict freedoms, create a new class of refugees and further tarnish Canada's international reputation. The international community will think that Canada is no longer a welcoming country, that we are no longer mediators, but that we are people who care only about law and order. That is how it has been since the Conservative Party took power. It is a shame that the Liberals are inclined to join the Conservatives in their tendency to do battle rather than honour the long-standing Canadian way: negotiation.
Topic: Government Orders
Subtopic: Preventing Human Smugglers From Abusing Canada's Immigration System Act