Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada’s Immigration System Act

Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, the member for Vancouver Kingsway made a point earlier in his excellent presentation that the statement frequently made by government members that somehow refugees are jumping the queue has no reality. I certainly agree with that. However, I put that very question to the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism and his response was that there is a queue for refugees, that they should go to an international refugee facility run by the United Nations and wait there.

We have heard a government member say that the UN should get its act together. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is entirely funded by voluntary donations from governments. It is already stretched beyond its limits and was not created as a holding room for political refugees. It responds to crisis situations. Therefore, the notion that refugees should first find their way to a camp run by the UNHCR shows a complete absence of understanding of the political refugee situation.

I wonder if the hon. member for Vancouver Kingsway would comment on this misapprehension of the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism on how refugees arrive in this country.

Don Davies: Mr. Speaker, that is an excellent question. It is easy to be generous when asking someone else to pay the freight and carry the load. The statement by the minister presumes that it is other countries that must have the UNHCR refugee camps, not us. Canada does not have one. For instance, if people are fleeing Sri Lanka by boat, I guess we expect Sri Lanka’s neighbouring countries, such as Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam, to welcome and support those people in international refugee camps. However, we do not have one. Internationally, what kind of position is that?

It is worse to think that, unlike Canada, many of the countries surrounding Sri Lanka have not signed international covenants on the treatment of refugees. It is even worse to think that a first world and wealthy country such as Canada has far more resources for settling refugees. Perhaps Canada should open some UNHCR camps in Canada. If members opposite think that the UN should be doing its share and picking up the slack, maybe Canada could lead the way by offering to do more in that regard.