Parliament: Emergency Debate Regarding U.S. Travel Ban

Ms. Elizabeth May:

Madam Speaker, I am only able now to rise for the first time to address the substance of this debate, having been here for several hours. I am grateful to have a chance to put a question to the member for Kingston and the Islands.

While we have been debating, I received an email from a 19-year-old young woman in my riding who wrote me this. Her name is Rachel, and I did not get permission to use her last name. I will read this for Rachel. She wants her voice heard.

I do not want to have to explain to my future children that I was alive when refugees were turned away from the United States while Canada did nothing. I understand that some statements have been made; however, I believe that action needs to be taken….I would like to ask you to try to ensure that we are on the right side of history.

I applaud so much what the Liberal government has done in bringing in 40,000 Syrian refugees. I appreciate the Prime Minister taking an early stand, and the symbolism is profound that our new Minister of Immigration is himself a refugee originally from Somalia. However, symbolism and good wishes will not be enough. Amnesty International is right. The Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers is right. The 200 law professors who signed the a are correct. We need to take action proactively before people are caught in the jaws of a reckless and discriminatory government.

The Prime Minister does not have to attack the President of the United States. He can try to have good relations. However, by our actions, we will be known.

Mr. Mark Gerretsen:

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for not only addressing her question here, but for reading a letter that one of her constituents wrote to her. That is extremely noble.

I would argue that there has not been merely symbolism coming from the government. As pointed out by other colleagues this evening, this government has delivered 40,000 Syrian refugees alone last year to Canada. It has done so much more than the Conservatives did when they were in power, and more than NDP members had committed to doing in their election platform.

I appreciate the member’s comments. I disagree that it is just about symbolism. This government has shown actual, real leadership when it comes to this file.


 Ms. Elizabeth May:

Mr. Speaker, I have been delinquent in not profoundly thanking the member for Vancouver East for bringing forward this emergency debate tonight.

The nature of the Safe Third Country Agreement is explained in the open letter that has been referred to many times this evening, and that is:

Canada’s immigration legislation indicates that, in determining whether a country should be designated as “safe” for refugees, consideration must be given to the country’s human rights record and to whether the country complies with the 1951 Refugee Convention and the Convention against Torture.

This letter, signed by eminent jurists, law professors, concludes that currently the executive orders the president has made, combined with his musing that torture works, they say:

We also note that they are inconsistent with the 1951 Refugee Convention, the Convention Against Torture, the UN Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights….

I know that as things now stand, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship has not answered this question. The Minister of Immigration can, as an individual minister, immediately suspend this in order to ensure that no one is trapped, no one is prevented from finding safe haven in Canada if they happen to be in the U.S.

I would ask if the hon. member would consider, and I think there are other hon. members in the Liberal caucus who may agree, that this should be a subject for ongoing debate, and that the government should change its mind

Mr. Borys Wrzesnewskyj:

Mr. Speaker, I fully agree that this is an issue for ongoing debate and in fact it is an issue, as are many of the issues that this presidential decree has raised, that we are seeking clarity on and that we are monitoring very carefully.

As of the present time, the U.S. government continues, as far as we can tell, to meet the conditions of the agreement. That does not mean we are not monitoring. We are monitoring. We are watching and making sure that those conditions are in fact being met.