The following is an excerpt from Olivia Chow’s speech in the House of Commons on October 27, 2010 on Bill C-49, Harper’s anti-smuggling bill that unfairly punishes refugees:
Canada has some dark history. I previously talked about the boat, the S.S. St. Louis, that came to Canada in the late 1930s after going to the U.S. The boat arrived at Halifax harbour carrying 900 Jewish refugees who were seeking sanctuary. Tragically, because of racism, xenophobia, hatred and anti-Semitism, these refugees were sent away. Two hundred and fifty of them were murdered in the Holocaust after returning to Europe. The refugee law at that time was unjust, cruel and mean-spirited and it led to death. We have always said that never again would we practice the policy of none is too many. We have always said that we will not repeat history.
The bill would allow a boat such as the S.S. St. Louis to dock in Canada. However, those people, whether they are men, women or children, would be detained for at least a year. We may tell some of them that they are genuine refugees and they will be allowed to stay, but they will not be allowed to apply for permanent residence and therefore will not be able to sponsor their children or spouses to come to Canada for at least five years.
What would happen if the people on the S.S. St. Louis were accepted after a few years? They would have to wait for five years and then apply for permanent residence and bring their children over. However, because of the huge backlog, they will have to wait three to four years to bring their children over, no matter whether their children are coming from a refugee camp or another country and facing persecution. A person deemed to be a genuine refugee would have to wait at least nine years to bring a son, daughter, spouse to Canada. How many people would survive in a refugee camp, especially a child, for nine years?
Therefore, we are talking about punishing and attacking refugees, and not just those who arrive on Canada’s shores. We are also talking about their relatives who are stuck back home. We are telling them that they either do not come to Canada, or if they do, they have to kiss goodbye their kids or their spouse for at least nine or ten years. They might never see them again.