3 min

The tone of debate on the human smuggling bill

With Bill C-49, ostensibly about stopping human smugglers, once again before the House of Commons, debate took place yesterday morning. With stakeholder groups resoundingly against its passage, Liberal MP Scott Simms asked questions during the debate in the House yesterday. I spoke to Simms after Question Period today.

Q: The debate yesterday was on C-49. Tell me how that went down?
A: I tried to get what I consider to be a debate of integrity, which was to say there are two elements of this – there’s the penalty phase of it, which is what this bill is mostly about, and that part I get – I understand about coming down hard on the people who smuggle people for the sake of profit. But on the other side, we never really engaged in any debate on what do you do about people who are here as castoffs, as legitimate refugees – what happens to their health and security. You have to look at the detention of them, the health of them – especially those regarded with human smuggling. That could be for sex trade workers, they could be workers in general, those working in sweatshops and that sort of thing, but of course they pay exorbitant amounts of money to get on these boats and get cast adrift. So what happens to them?

And every time we tried to bring that up, they labelled us as being “soft on smugglers.” Like by reaching out and saying I care about these children, or the young men and women who are destitute, who are in a desperate situation, by reaching out and saying we need to do something for them, they label us by saying ‘oh, they’re saying that because they want to help smugglers.’ Two things that they brought up yesterday – when it comes to smugglers, I want to come down on them just as hard as they do. To hell with them. Let’s get them, let’s make sure that the legitimate process is circumvented by these [guys]. They other thing that they said was they don’t want to see these refugees getting any more benefits than the average Canadian. That’s fine – I’m fine with that. But what does that have to be the number one issue for them, or why do they say it like I would deny that? I don’t want people getting more than the average Canadian does, but that’s not the point. I don’t expect these people to get a special extra service out of our health care system – I’d just like to get some service.

Q: When I was going though the Hansard of the debate, the response that intrigued me was where they said that legitimate refugees play by the rules.” It made me wonder just what exactly are the “rules” for someone who is trying to escape a country where they may be facing a death sentence?

A: This is it. They’re called refugees for a reason. They’re in far-flung areas of the world. How do you say that they’re following the rules when they don’t even know what the rules are? I guess what they’re trying to say is there’s a process to follow once they’ve arrived, once they’re received that attention. Why didn’t they just say that? I don’t want anyone circumventing the rules either, but this is a desperate situation. It’s almost like they don’t even talk to any of the field agents here. I’ve talked to a few, they tell me about how desperate it is. I’ve done a lot of work around human trafficking, especially in the sex trade. It’s amazing – none of these people follow the rules. Get them, these people who are pushing human lives around the world, who don’t care if they live or die, so long as they make money. Stick to that issue, and stop trying to turn this into some political football game where they can score points by labelling us as caring for the smugglers. Come on!

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