Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada’s Immigration System Act

Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the hon. member for Winnipeg North. We are really struggling here with the notion that there is a queue for refugees.

I used to practise in immigration law. I had a lot of refugee claimants. In fact, they mostly were ship-jumpers in Halifax. They would take their one chance to get away from a repressive regime.

I say with some humour, in the hopes of waking up other members around the House, that at one point my colleagues in my law firm said I knew how to say “Hi, sailor” in 27 languages.

However, there is no queue for refugees. Refugees show up with the clothes on their backs. They are trying to get away from a repressive regime. When I have raised this point with the Minister of Immigration, and I have heard it from government members today, it has been said that there is a queue and they just go to a United Nations refugee camp and wait there.

I would like to ask the hon. member for Winnipeg North this question. The claim by the government that there is such a thing as a queue for refugees will be at the heart of the public relations campaign to defend an indefensible bill. We have to really explain to people that the UN High Commission for Refugees is a voluntarily-funded branch of the United Nations. It does not have the capacity to provide places for people, like waiting rooms around the world, in refugee camps. That is not the route refugees take. They show up here, they ask to be assessed and they ask for their rights to be respected.

Kevin Lamoureux: Mr. Speaker, it is very important that we recognize that international law guarantees that people who fear persecution have the right to seek asylum in another country. That is in international law. I do not think anything should change on that.

To talk about jumping the queue, again, is just to try to politicize the issue so the government can try to give the impression that people will be done wrong by if it allows boats to come to Canada, whether they have legitimate refugee claims or not. When the government says that they are jumping the queue and when we know full well that in the vast majority of the cases these are legitimate refugees who are seeking asylum is just wrong. Again, when we take a look at international law, there is no queue-jumping. When the lives of people are at risk, people will take the opportunity when the opportunity comes forward. We all need to, and should, appreciate that.