Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. minister for making himself available for half an hour to discuss why we should not be limiting debate on a bill of this importance.
I would like to ask the hon. minister if he does not think that a bill of this magnitude and importance would be improved by ensuring that when we bring forward sweeping changes to refugee and immigration law, the government has the support of those people most intimately involved and most knowledgeable? I refer to groups like the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers and the Canadian Bar Association. We should have legislation which we are sure would meet any charter challenge before we pass it.
Hon. Jason Kenney: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member’s contribution to debates in this place, but I could not disagree with her more strongly on this particular point.
There is a widespread consensus that the current asylum system is dysfunctional. Yet there are certain discrete special interests, including the so-called refugee lawyers association, that are the core special interests who want to protect the status quo. They are opposed to any meaningful reform. Frankly, any model of refugee reform that that organization supported would continue the dysfunction of the asylum system.
What we are proposing in C-31 goes above and beyond our legal and humanitarian obligations under both the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the UN convention on refugees. It proposes an asylum system that would be universally accessible and that would respect absolutely our obligation of non-refoulement of people deemed to be in need of our protection. It would provide access to a full and fair hearing at an independent quasi-judicial body, which again goes above and beyond our charter and UN convention obligations. It would create for the first time a full and fact-based appeal at the refugee appeal division, accessible to the vast majority of failed asylum claimants who lose at the first instance.
This is something that I think any reasonable person could support. However, we will not allow ourselves to be blocked from meaningful reform, to provide protection to real refugees by the special interests who have helped to create the problems in the first place.