The House resumed from December 12, 2022, consideration of the motion that Bill , be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Madam Speaker, it is such a pleasure to be able to rise and speak to legislation that reinforces something that has been discussed and debated in the House now for quite a while, two political regimes out there and the impact they are having on the world today.
We hear a great deal from members of the opposition talking about the issue of inflation. Looking around the world at the current level of inflation rates, I often stand and talk about the reality of what is happening in the world that, in part, is causing inflation to occur, such as the two regimes I would like to spend a bit of time talking about, and why this legislation is before us today.
The war in Ukraine has caused so much hardship in many different ways. There are Ukrainian communities not only in Ukraine but around the world, and I believe that if Canada is not second it might be third behind the United States with respect to the size of our Ukrainian heritage community. I say that because, typically, whatever takes place in Ukraine, whether today or back in 2014 at the Maidan or Independence Square, or the independence of Ukraine back in the early 1990s, the people of Canada genuinely care. That should not surprise anyone when we look at the demographics of Canada. Over 1.3 million people of Ukrainian heritage call Canada home.
It is not just people of Ukrainian heritage who have made that connection, but in good part it is the neighbours, the working environment and our educational institutions, where we find a great deal of discussion concerning Ukraine. I am much more familiar with what is happening in Ukraine than I am, I must admit, with Iran, and I want to be able to amplify that. I know there are so many people in my home province, and in fact in Winnipeg, who are following the war in Ukraine, or the war that is taking place in Europe. This weekend I will be hosting a special lunch at one of our local Ukrainian churches. There is no doubt that the number one issue I will be addressing Sunday afternoon is the illegal war taking place in Ukraine.
I have asked for some numbers, and based on the community numbers provided to me, we have seen well over 12,000 people, and someone suggested as high as 15,000 people, displaced from Ukraine who are now living in Manitoba. When we look at the numbers and we drive around Winnipeg or the rural communities, whether Dauphin or even the community of Gimli, what we see is substantial support for Ukraine in the form of Ukrainian flags being flown in office and home windows. I say this because of what has taken place over the last year with respect to how the Ukrainian community, not just in Ukraine, Canada and the United States but around the world, has really come together in solidarity. The friends of Ukraine, people who are not necessarily of Ukrainian heritage, recognize that, like Canada and its allied countries, they need to be there for Ukraine in a very real and tangible way.
I remember standing up and speaking in the House, where I was talking about how we should be providing support for Ukraine. It was maybe just over a year ago. The had indicated to me not to forget lethal weapons. It is important that the types of supports we are putting in place for Ukraine, in working with allied countries, are really making a difference. A part of that support speaks directly to the legislation we have today. The legislation deals with one aspect of the things we are doing to show the world that Canada is behind Ukraine. That is the issue of sanctions.
When the war broke out in Ukraine, there were many demands put on the Government of Canada. We did not necessarily have to hear them, as we had ministers taking up their responsibilities and already taking action. However, we literally had thousands of people throughout the country stand up in rallies saying, “What can we do as a nation to protect the interests of Ukraine?” There were ideas such as humanitarian aid. I remember we said we would match Canadians' contributions to humanitarian aid and I believe it was a $12-million commitment that we made, though I might be out by a bit. It was just a matter of weeks, if not days, that the cap was hit, so we had to expand that cap because Canadians wanted to see humanitarian aid.
When it comes to the military, more than 35,000 Ukrainian soldiers have benefited from our Canadian Forces and the training we provided. We have provided all forms of ammunition and other types of supports. Very recently, Ukraine has received one of our tanks, a Leopard tank I believe. Members will find that we are providing multiple numbers of many different things.
The point of this is to recognize our support, whether it is lethal weapons, humanitarian aid or providing leadership with our allied countries so there would be a united front in taking on Russia. One of the areas in which Canada has made significant headway is on the sanctions. It is having an impact. Canada has taken a very strong approach in regard to a multitude of tools we can use in order to clearly indicate that there will be consequences for what is happening in Europe with this unprovoked, inhumane war that Russia commenced on Ukraine a year ago.
The people of Russia are, in fact, starting to see the consequences of economic sanctions that have been put on to the country and of sanctions for the regime itself. Canada will continue to be there for Ukraine in a time of need in regard to holding Russia accountable. Banning close associates and key supporters of the Putin regime, including those responsible for Russia's unprovoked aggression in Ukraine, from entering our country is one of the many ways we are holding Russia accountable for its crimes. We will continue to exercise all options to uphold freedom and democracy.
When we look at Bill , we see that there are amendments being proposed that are needed to align Canada's sanctions and inadmissibility frameworks to ensure that those who are responsible for Russia's aggression, and already subjected to sanctions, would be inadmissible to Canada.
Individuals and entities that have been sanctioned for their support of terrorism and systemic and gross human rights violations are inadmissible to Canada. The changes we would be putting in place would allow the Canada Border Services Agency to deny entry to, and ultimately remove, sanctioned individuals, and would allow Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada officials to deny visas. Once in force, these amendments to the IRPA would apply to all foreign nationals subject to sanctions by Canada, as well as to any accompanying family members.
We can take a look at many of the actions throughout this war that are taking place today or have taken place in the last 10 or 11 months in Ukraine. We hear about human rights violations. Just yesterday we were talking about the notwithstanding clause in the House, and highlighted the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Canadian values. If we were to apply Canadian values to what is taking place in Ukraine, it is very obvious. We could show that in a classroom of grade 1 students. We could sit down and explain it to a child, and the child would understand that very clearly. That is how blatant, in Ukraine in a time of war, the types of actions that Russia has taken are. We can cite specific examples of things, from mass murder to rape and all forms of seduction and torture that are taking place in Ukraine, so it is fairly easy to put forward that particular argument.
I can change channels and talk about Iran and the regime in Iran, because even though I spend most of my time talking about Ukraine, the legislation would also apply to the regime in Iran. One can only imagine, in terms of what it is that, in particular, women today have to put up with in regard to what is taking place in the Iranian regime. Again, Canada will continue to hold the Iranian regime to account for its crimes and human rights abuses.
We stand in solidarity with the women and demonstrators across Iran who are advocating for their rights and freedoms. That is why we are implementing the strongest sanctions in the world, which include banning senior IRGC operatives from Canada. The government continues to be unwavering in its commitment to keep Canadians safe by taking all appropriate actions to counter terrorist threats in Canada and around the world. We have a moral responsibility to hold the Iranian regime to account, and we will do just that.
The restrictions on women are very upsetting. I pointed out what is taking place in Ukraine, which can be explained quite easily to virtually anyone who wants to listen. The Iranian situation has been taking place for a while. It has been very difficult in certain aspects for women, and it is gender based. The economic and social hardships that they have had to overcome are because they were born female versus male.
On the issue of human rights and Canadian values, in certain areas of the world, we all need to be concerned about advocating in a stronger and more aggressive way for the recognition of women and their proper place in world society, and there is much work that needs to be done. Some countries, sadly, are so extreme in their behaviour that it is completely unacceptable, especially with respect to discrimination against women. There are countries that will sponsor terrorism to invoke the element of fear by killing randomly and by suppressing the rights and freedoms of their own populations.
We have a great deal of debate inside this chamber about the issue of human rights and what we can do. If we were to take substantial, tangible action to deal with those hours of debate we have had over the years on this issue it would be to support this piece of legislation.
The legislation before us would send a very clear message, whether to Russia, Iran or other countries that do not share the types of values of Canada has. We have tools we can use to ensure we are promoting our values. That is what Bill is. It is about ensuring that we have sanctions and that we could prevent people from entering Canada or from ever being in Canada. It would also enable us to get rid of individuals here in Canada who have been associated with this issue in a direct way.
I encourage all members to support this legislation. It would be a wonderful message to send on this issue to see this legislation pass soon.
Madam Speaker, I am going to share my time with the member for . I know members often forget to indicate this and it causes a bit of consternation at the table, so I wanted to mention that off the top.
Just so my constituents know what the debate is about, we are talking about Bill , which would amend paragraph 35.1(1)(a) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which is affectionately known by many of us as IRPA, because it is just easier to use the acronym, as with everything in government.
This bill would basically change the grounds for inadmissibility to Canada under IRPA to match with our sanctions list. Part of the debate over the last 18 months has been the government having to catch up over time and sanction new people in order to match sanctions to people we do not want to let in as we list new organizations, new people and new events that happen all over the world.
Many of us were gripped by the protests taking place by women standing up for their rights in Iran after the death of Jina Mahsa Amini, a Kurdish woman whose hometown was Saqqez, if I'm pronouncing it correctly. I am sure my Kurdish friends will correct me by email very soon. She was visiting Tehran, and she was picked up by the morality police. I am sure they noticed on her identity papers that she was not from Tehran and quickly figured out she was Kurdish. They beat her in custody, and she died a few days later. This sparked mass protests in Iran.
Then the government decided to start sanctioning individual bits and pieces of the regime in order to show it was on the side of the protesters. Many Iranians in Canada were asking why the government was still letting in members of the regime; people who have profited from the regime; people who are close to the regime, such as wives or girlfriends; or people close to the regime coming here to study.
I was getting videos and pictures of people landing at the Toronto Pearson Airport who were known members of the regime. Of course I would always tell them, “We don't know what you know, and you should inform the RCMP”. When they would go to the RCMP, they would usually be told the individuals or organizations were not sanctioned and that they had not been found inadmissible to Canada.
This bill would partially close that hole, which many of us and the worried members of our communities have called for in the past. We also know that if we do not enforce the sanctions or inadmissibility grounds, then it does not matter how many people we put on the list. We need a government that has the will to act and actually impose the sanctions on individuals and enforce them through information gathering and information sharing in order to identify these people in Canada.
I will draw the attention of the House to one specific person, and this is one I hear about quite often when I go to Iranian protests and rallies in Canada. Morteza Talaei is a former police chief of Tehran. He was the police chief when Zahra Kazemi, an Iranian Canadian and Montrealer, was arrested. She was beaten and died in custody.
The fact that we do not enforce our sanctions is one of the next debates we will have after this. When this piece of legislation hopefully makes it to committee and beyond and actually passes into law, then government can find the time to enforce it. Not only can the government devote resources to it, but it can also give political direction to the CBSA to detain and deport these people.
I had an Order Paper question given back to me just a few months ago that indicated the government was only following through on half its deportation orders for people who had already been found inadmissible to Canada. It is a shocking number that has gone way down since the pandemic, and that is a very worrying sign to me.
I want to cover what is happening in Iran, speak a little about the People's Republic of China and then cover the Russian Federation and its war of aggression on Ukraine. Those are the three major countries many of us think of when we think of our sanctions regime and the people we would like to be found inadmissible to Canada.
On Iran, I have been a big supporter of the protests. There are individual case files that have come to my constituency office that I have tried to advocate for, both directly with the and in working with members from both sides of the House.
I want to mention that I have politically sponsored Mohammad Amin Akhlaghi, who was sentenced to death by the regime simply for the act of peacefully protesting. I also sponsored Amir Mohammad Jafari, who was arrested at school when he was 17 years old. He was taken to prison, tortured and then sentenced to 25 years in jail, followed by exile after his prison sentence was complete. This was for the crime of corruption on earth, which is a broad claim made against many individuals in Iran.
Many of these individuals' family members have contacted me. It is just a broad-based accusation. They can do anything they want. This is through IRGC-controlled courts and a justice system where there is no justice.
Many organizations have been sanctioned. We have sanctioned different bits of the regime. However, in many cases, the fact that we are politically sponsoring them ensures their protection. It shows the Iranian regime that we are looking at individual cases. I track them every few days. I ask my staff, and I look them up to make sure that nothing has happened to them.
The government needs to be doing more. The little bit that we found in Bill is not, I think, quite enough just yet. The government needs to be defining some people as inadmissible and following up on cases like those of Morteza Talaei and other Iranian nationals who have come to Canada on different visas, who may have overstayed here and who are still here. They should have their visas reviewed as well. I am hoping that this legislation will look after that.
On the issue of the enforcement of sanctions, we had a New Democratic member stand up to correct the record when a member from one of the Winnipeg ridings was speaking on behalf of the government. However, our own shadow minister for international trade had an Order Paper question come back demonstrating that over the last however many years, at our border, the Canadian government has actually stopped zero dollars' worth of merchandise coming from the Xinjiang province in the People's Republic of China because of the use of slave labour.
In comparison, America has actually stopped billions of dollars of merchandise at its border. It is not as though our markets are all that different. We buy many goods. Many companies are buying goods, such as T-shirts, socks and a lot of goods made of cotton.
In Xinjiang, cotton happens to be one of the major products that is made with slave labour. Companies have to ensure that they have an ethical supply chain, but it is incumbent upon the government to ensure that the CBSA is directed to catch these products at the border. It is impossible that it is at zero dollars.
The fact that we received that answer to an Order Paper question proves that the government is not doing enough. I am hoping that after Bill gets a fulsome debate here, in committee, at third reading and at the report stage, members will get the satisfaction of knowing that the government is actually going to follow through and enforce it.
Lastly, on the Russian Federation, as I rose before to mention, we do not have the strongest sanctions in the world. Again, we have piecemeal sanctions of different bits of the regime.
I have a Yiddish proverb, and it will come at the very end.
We have sanctioned different parts of the Russian regime. In Bill , there are references to the justice for Sergei Magnitsky act. It is a piece of legislation that I worked on at the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs when we were debating it at the time.
For those who do not know, Sergei Magnitsky was Bill Browder's lawyer in Russia. He uncovered a $200-million-plus case of tax fraud being committed.
He was a fervent lawyer trying to get to the truth. For his trouble, he was arrested by the Russian regime. He was kept in confinement. He was beaten, tortured and murdered for the simple act of following up on tax law and making sure that the Russian taxpayer was getting their due.
The highly corrupt regime run by President Putin and oligarchs in Russia cannot be trusted. They have now moved to a hot war. The started the war in 2014 but moved to a hot war last year. The piecemeal approach of sanctioning different parts of the regime has not worked. There are many European countries that have much stronger sanctions than we do.
I gave the example of the Republic of Poland before. It has banned not only all coal imports but also the spread of Russian propaganda. It has prevented Russia Today from broadcasting and done many other things.
Many eastern European countries have a much longer history of trying to resist what many of them will call their centuries-long oppressor. This is why many of them joined NATO after the Warsaw Pact fell apart.
I have a Yiddish proverb, because I made myself a note to mention this: “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.” Yiddish is wonderful because it always tries to say something in a positive way but actually means something kind of insulting.
In this particular case, months from now, we will be moving on to other government legislation. I am convinced that the government caucus will be accusing the Conservatives of holding up pieces of legislation because we want to debate things and bring forward issues and individual cases that we think are worth listening to in this chamber. We will be told that legislation needs to be rushed because it needs to be passed.
I will think back to this moment when we debated Bill , when we were debating legislation that many of us agreed with.
It is the government House leader's job to schedule Government Orders and to make sure that the priorities of the government are passed. I note that this legislation started in the Senate instead of the House; so much for a House of sober second thought when we are the ones looking at government legislation from the Senate.
Madam Speaker, for my constituents, I will say that we are debating a bill that proposes to establish a legal framework for persons to be declared inadmissible or deported from Canada under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act due to their person, country of origin or organization being subject to sanctions.
I want to pick up on my colleague's theme of the enforcement of sanctions. I think what the government is trying to do with this bill is make sure that no cases slip through the cracks, even though there are already a lot of mechanisms that exist in Canadian law to ensure that such persons would not have access to Canada. To pick up on the theme of enforcement, and my colleague from Calgary Shepard just outlined some of the issues with the enforcement of sanctions, the also said that there may be people in Canada who are subject to sanctions the government has not yet moved to act on, which is troubling. The government has had eight years to deal with these sorts of instances, and it has not. However, the theme of slipping through the cracks is much broader than just this bill when it comes to the immigration system.
To give an example of how I do not feel this bill adequately addresses enforcement mechanisms, I would like to draw my colleague's attention to an article that was published just moments ago in the Globe and Mail, which states that a member of the other place issued 640 documents to Afghan nationals, and I have seen one instance of these, which apparently said that individuals had been granted a visa to enter Canada. This was done through questioning over the last several days. The current said this was done without the authorization of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. What the IRCC said was that this senator did not have the authority, as no one does in this place, to issue visas.
Yesterday, at the immigration committee, I outlined an instance of the family of one of my constituents receiving this letter, which frankly fooled me for nearly a year. They thought they had received a visa or permission to enter Canada, but even after a year of trying to deal with virtually every department in the Government of Canada, we could never get confirmation as to what documentation the government was or was not using. As the story is unfolding today, we are now seeing, in an affidavit put forward yesterday in a related court case by the affected person from the other place, as well a consultant named Laura Robinson, that there were apparently 640 instances of these letters being issued.
What is worse is I know that the IRCC, GAC and other agencies were aware of at least the case I was dealing with, and as far as we can tell there was no action taken during this time. However, today, the affidavit that person put forward with respect to the case also states that this was done at the behest of the chief of staff of the defence minister at the time, whose name I believe is George Young, so that person actually sent these documents to the person from the other place and said to go ahead and use them. These documents say that they have been granted a visa and, at least in the instance I saw, bear a very authentic-looking Government of Canada seal. This is not just an email, but a document with a government seal that purports to grant somebody entry into Canada.
The Globe and Mail article states that, in her affidavit, the senator said she regularly e-mailed the former minister of foreign affairs, the former minister of defence and the former immigration minister, who is now the Minister of Public Safety, as well as their senior staff. The names they gave were Mike Jones and Olga Radchenko.
The issue I have with this is not that we should not be bringing Afghan nationals to Canada, particularly ones such as those in the family of my constituent, who Canada had a duty and obligation to protect. We should have been doing a lot more. The issue I have is that the government called a federal election and, according to this affidavit, allowed a workaround process, which none of us in this place had access to, but it appears it was essentially said that people who were not duly authorized by IRCC had the ability to issue these letters.
There is a reason our immigration process is arm's length and separate from political mechanisms. It is so that we can ensure that the equity of the process is unimpeachable, and that when we are making hard decisions on who comes into this country, particularly in times of crisis, we can assure our constituents that this was done under just and legal circumstances, because that is how we ensure that the public has trust and faith in the institution of the government.
This has enormous implications, and not just for the sanctity of the government's process on immigration. Again, the government is introducing legislation, I think, because it failed to use existing enforcement mechanisms. However, the case we are seeing today also put lives at risk.
The family of my constituent believed that the letters they received, which they thought were coming from a government official, would allow them access to Canada. They came out of hiding and exposed themselves to try to get to the airport. Then, because they were in possession of these letters, my office tried to help them for nearly a year. We understood that they had been approved, so why could they not come to Canada? They were not able to apply for another program, and because they applied late, the government said, “Sorry, there's no room here.”
Now I have to wonder about any other programs that the government put forward to bring Afghan nationals here. Now that there is a civil suit and all sorts of stuff happening, I wonder how they were selecting those persons. Are those persons going to be part of the lawsuit, which it is trying to make go away?
It brings me no joy to raise these matters in the House, but the bottom line is that the government has exposed itself to this type of questioning, because it refused, apparently over the course of a year, and I do not know what happened here, to use basic enforcement mechanisms to see if the documentation that was being presented was authentic. If the government did not have a process to evacuate persons in Afghanistan, it should not have called a federal election. That is just the reality.
I was the vice-chair of the immigration committee for four years. I know my way around the immigration file. However, these documents that came through my office fooled me. Why did they fool me? It was because the government was completely opaque, completely non-transparent, on the process by which it was using to address this situation.
I get that it was chaotic, but part of the duty and onus of the government is to see these things coming, and many colleagues in the House were talking about it for months. We knew this was coming. The government knew that this was a risk, and instead of putting due process in place, it looks like it did a panic workaround, and I think it used a well-intentioned person. The Liberals knew about and should have shut this down to put something in place that was proper, or it should not have called an election. The result of this is a lack of compassion that undermines the integrity of our immigration system and puts people such as those in my constituent's family at risk.
The government needs to do everything possible to find out what happened here and hold persons who are are responsible for this to account. Otherwise, the bill that is in front of us today, or any other mechanism, is always going to have questions attached to it, such as this: Is having a fake visa issued by a member of Parliament or a senator the best way to get to Canada?