Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act (Bill C-31)

Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, in the entire debate on Bill C-31 I have found a persistent confusion of the issues of immigration and refugees. Just to get the terms clear from the beginning, the world in 2009 had more refugees than at any time in history. There were 43 million people who had been displaced from their country of origin and fitted the United Nations’ definition of refugees. Of that number, only 1% are ever resettled into a third country. In 2009, of that number, four-fifths were being kept in refugee camps, basically in the developing world. Therefore, we are talking about a very small number of refugees who make their way to Canada. They are not in a queue. Refugees, by definition, cannot apply in their country of origin; they have been displaced.

I would like to ask the hon. member if he would clarify for us his understanding of refugees. Refugees are, by definition, people who come here in desperation. They do not form a queue in their country of origin to come as normal immigrants would.

Dave Van Kesteren: Mr. Speaker, we have to understand that this bill addresses those refugee claimants who come to our country. As I referred to in my speech, Canada has a very generous refugee program. As a nation, we accept more refugees than most other nations in the entire world. 

I share the member’s passion for those who are genuine refugees. We want to ensure that those people have the opportunity and are not backlogged and slowed down by those who abuse the system. We know that this has been the case for too long in our country.

It is the intent of this government, and it is what our constituents have asked, to fix this problem and ensure that we can address those who really do need the services that our governments provide.