Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada’s Immigration System Act

Elizabeth May: Madam Speaker, this issue of having a Canadian law that will require jailing children of potential refugee claimants in Canada, the entire family, man, woman and child to be kept in detention for a full year, with only one review by the minister, is one of the most egregious parts of this so-called human smuggling legislation, which I now refer to as the “anti-refugee law”.

As long as we keep calling it human smuggling legislation, we allow it to continue under disguise. It is actually anti-refugee legislation.

I want put for the hon. member the scenario of the MV St. Louis in 1939 in Halifax Harbour. Under our current laws, Captain Gustav Schroeder, who bravely took money and brought Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany to our shores, would be jailed for life. That is already Canadian law; that is not in this bill. Further, all 937 German Jewish refugees would be kept in internment for a year in Canada.

I accept that the hon. members from the government benches said yesterday that this would be far preferable to being sent back to death camps in Nazi Germany, but I really do not think that is how Canadians want to treat refugees who come to our shores, putting men, women and children in jail for a year.

Could the hon. member expand on how he sees the bill affecting the children of refugee families?

Jamie Nicholls: Madam Speaker, we can see that the effect of detaining children and families would be terrible.

Imagine something happening in Canada where all of a sudden we had a natural disaster or some form of persecution causing Canadians to flee to another country. Then when they arrived at that country, they were not welcomed and integrated. Rather they were protected from the people of that country through detention because the public opinion there had been turned against all outsiders.

I imagine the feeling of those families would be terrible. It would terribly psychologically damaging on those families, especially on their children. There are documented medical and physiological effects of child refugees who are not integrated or welcomed. There are serious physiological effects and psychological repercussions, PTSD, and all sorts of things that make it very difficult on a child’s personal development. It is not in the best interests of the child. When that child eventually does integrate into society, extra care will be needed, which will take up resources.

Why do we not start from point zero, helping these families integrate into our society rather than pushing them away?