House of Commons
Mr. Pierre Paul-Hus (Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, CPC): Mr. Speaker, on April 27, the Federal Court said that refugees could file a claim for refugee protection in Canada if they were worried about being deported from the United States. That is fundamentally contrary to the logic of the safe third country agreement, under which the United States complies with international refugee laws, including the non-refoulement principle.
Does the government agree with the Federal Court that the United States is not a safe country for asylum seekers or will it do what needs to be done and appeal that decision?
Hon. Marc Garneau (Minister of Transport, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, that is some highly worrisome rhetoric coming from the Conservative benches. They are the ones perpetuating the myth that people are trying to jump the queue when they know very well that asylum seekers are treated completely differently from other asylum seekers.
They are the ones who floated the ridiculous idea of creating an official point of entry 9,000 kilometres long with fewer security officers. While they are busy fearmongering, we are going to ensure that Canadians are kept safe and that Canadian and international laws are—
The Speaker: Order. The hon. member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles.
Mr. Pierre Paul-Hus (Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, CPC): Mr. Speaker, it is disappointing to see the minister so completely miss the point of the question I just asked him. It was very straightforward.
This morning the Minister of Immigration told Canadians that he had nothing new to offer in terms of how to deal with the thousands of illegal migrants. The Liberals never talk about the need for compassion for real refugees in UN camps. They never talk about compassion for people who immigrate to Canada legally and who now have to wait longer.
While the minister is moving heaven and earth to accommodate illegal migrants, thousands and thousands of refugees are suffering and forgotten in real refugee camps.
Can the government show some real leadership and put the issue of asylum seekers on the agenda for the G7 summit?
Hon. Marc Garneau (Minister of Transport, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives may like to talk about security but they are the ones that slashed $390 million from the Canada Border Services Agency budget. They claim to be full of compassion but they are the ones who took medical aid away from families and children who came to Canada as refugees. This hypocrisy and them pretending to care about refugees is completely false. Canadians need to know that.
Hon. Alice Wong (Richmond Centre, CPC): Mr. Speaker, truly vulnerable refugees in the world do not have the means to fly to the United States and sneak across the Canadian border. Many anguish in refugee camps, waiting in a 45,000 case private sponsorship backlog. They cannot jump the line, yet the Liberals are allowing others to do just that. How is that fair or compassionate?
Hon. Ahmed Hussen (Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Harper Conservatives would not know what compassion is if it hit them in the face.
The Harper Conservatives cut $400 million from border security operations, and they pretend to care about the border. The Harper Conservatives kept families apart, with spouses, live-in caregivers, children, and others in queues. We inherited a huge, ballooning backlog under the privately sponsored refugees.
The Conservatives have no idea what compassion is about. They did not care about the Yazidi refugees.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
The Speaker: Order. It is not helpful for order in this place to suggest that people are not honourable or lack compassion or are not competent. Of course, that goes both ways. I ask members to be cautious and careful in the words they use, and particularly the minister on this occasion. I would ask him not to use that kind of suggestion in the future.
The hon. member for Calgary Nose Hill.
Hon. Michelle Rempel (Calgary Nose Hill, CPC): Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister has issued 12,500 expedited work permits for people who have entered Canada illegally from the United States in the last year alone. There are hundreds of thousands of people, including new Canadians, who are out of work or could be out of work and are trying to make ends meet. Planned orderly migration grows our economy. What is happening at the Quebec-U.S. border is not planned, orderly, fair, or compassionate.
Why will the Prime Minister not close the loophole in the safe third country agreement?
Hon. Ahmed Hussen (Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Harper Conservatives never understood a very simple thing about immigration, that investment follows silence. They did not make the necessary investments in immigration processing.
Let us stick to the numbers. Under that party, parents and grandparents had to wait years to come to Canada. Spouses and children were kept apart for years under that party. Privately sponsored refugees were kept apart for years under that party. We were handed a 50,000 case backlog in privately sponsored refugees. Yes, the Conservatives lack compassion because they cut refugee health care.
Ms. Hélène Laverdière (Laurier—Sainte-Marie, NDP): Mr. Speaker, no fewer than three ministers held a press conference this morning on the issue of asylum seekers, but they really did not have anything new to tell us.
The Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness announced that Canadian law will continue to be enforced and the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship said that he plans to go to Nigeria. However, there was nothing to address the root of the problem.
Will the government stop dithering and finally suspend the safe third country agreement?
Hon. Marc Garneau (Minister of Transport, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we did announce new measures this morning during our press conference.
Among other things, we have spoken to our American partners about the issue of asylum seekers arriving from Nigeria with a visa. This is an important file because this group represents the largest number of asylum seekers at this time. We also provided more information on the issue of the triage system set up to deal with those arriving at the Quebec border. We spoke about measures we are taking to examine the additional requests for funding from the Province of Quebec. We are doing all kinds of things at this time.
Mr. Matthew Dubé (Beloeil—Chambly, NDP): Mr. Speaker, that is a far cry from “all kinds of things”, because we have been talking about this since January 2017.
The government can send officials to the U.S. and to Nigeria. It can talk about all of the things that are happening, but the problem persists. What we are seeing is people who, in one case, are trying to flee death, torture, and poor living conditions, and in another case, fleeing anti-refugee sentiment that exists even in places like the White House.
If the government wants to be welcoming to refugees and it wants it to happen in the proper way at official border crossings, why does it not do the easy thing and suspend the safe third country agreement?
Hon. Ahmed Hussen (Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the safe third country agreement is premised on the notion of better management of asylum seekers between Canada and the United States. It is based on a principle supported by the United Nations Refugee Agency, that refugees should claim asylum in the first safe country that they land in. The United Nations Refugee Agency monitors both Canada and the United States in terms of their compliance with the safe third country agreement.
I did not think I would live to see the day when the NDP would disagree with the United Nations.
Mr. Luc Thériault (Montcalm, GPQ): Mr. Speaker, to hear Liberal ministers tell it this morning, protecting our borders is one of this government’s top priorities.
Can the minister tell us how his trip to Nigeria will address the problem of Honduran and Salvadoran asylum seekers coming in from the United States?
Hon. Marc Garneau (Minister of Transport, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I am very proud of our work in the United States with the Central American diaspora, whose members are not claiming asylum in Canada. That is because a number of our colleagues and consulates in the United States have worked hard to help them understand that there are rules governing asylum seekers’ entry into Canada. We are doing our job on that front, and we have no asylum seekers from Central America.
Mr. Michel Boudrias (Terrebonne, GPQ): Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness announced the construction of new facilities in Lacolle to alleviate the current pressure on Quebec’s resources.
We understand that Ottawa is expecting the arrival of large numbers of irregular refugee claimants. The government’s solution is to build a temporary village until these people end up settling permanently in Montreal. None of the measures announced this morning do anything to solve the problem.
When will the government come up with a real plan to ensure respect for our borders and keep them secure, particularly in Quebec?
Hon. Marc Garneau (Minister of Transport, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we have described the measures that we have taken to date and the new measures that we are implementing.
My colleague’s reference to a refugee camp at the Lacolle border crossing is quite frankly ridiculous. It is not only ridiculous, but it is also dangerous and irresponsible to make those kind of statements here in the House.
It is a temporary camp in case there are a lot more asylum seekers. If we did not set up this camp, Canadians would think that we are irresponsible. We are taking the necessary measures to be prepared for every eventuality, even though we are working on decreasing the number of asylum seekers in Canada
No business to report.
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