Mr. Speaker, I rise today to take part in the important debate on Bill . The headline of the Toronto Star
editorial before Christmas says it about as succinctly as possible when it comes to this legislation. It sums it up: “Conservatives' bill to deport ‘foreign' criminals goes too far”.
As the editorial points out, “Criminals should do their time. No one disputes that”. Neither do I and neither do my New Democrat colleagues. In fact I think we can all agree that non-citizens who commit serious crimes in Canada should be dealt with quickly. The safety of our communities is paramount.
We said from the time this legislation was tabled that we were willing to work with the government to prevent non-citizens who commit serious crimes from abusing our appeals process, without trampling on their rights. We remain very concerned, however, that this Conservative bill would concentrate more arbitrary power in the hands of the without any checks and balances.
With an eye towards compromise, I introduced nine reasonable NDP amendments to the bill at the committee stage to curb the excessive powers of the minister and restore some due process. Unfortunately, they were all rejected by the Conservative Party.
I was especially disappointed that the Conservatives rejected moderate NDP amendments to curb the excessive power the bill gives the minister. They even rejected an amendment that sought to codify into the legislation, word-for-word, the minister's own proposed guidelines for keeping people out of Canada on public policy considerations.
What became clear at committee stage was that New Democrats wanted to work across party lines to ensure the speedy removal of serious non-citizen criminals. But the Conservatives did not want to work with us to make the legislation better. Many witnesses and stakeholders from all sides told us that the real problem with serious criminals delaying deportation is that there is a lack of coordination and resources at Citizenship and Immigration Canada and the Canada Border Services Agency.
Numerous auditor generals' reports also confirmed this to be the case. In fact, even a Conservative witness, Mr. James Bisset, told the immigration committee that:
There simply aren't enough enforcement officers in the Canada Border Services Agency to track down some of these very serious cases. They do their best, but there are few resources devoted to that. In the past, the enforcement of immigration has not been something that has been vigorously pursued in the country.
Conservatives members often referenced the case of Clinton Gayle, a dangerous criminal who callously murdered a Toronto police officer, Todd Baylis, while awaiting deportation for other crimes.
However during a federal inquiry into the Clinton Gayle case, associate deputy minister Ian Glen stated, “Quite simply, the system failed”. As to why, he explained that the department's priority at the time was to target unsuccessful refugee claimants who were on the run rather than criminals, because that way the deportation numbers were higher. This is the real problem, and nothing in the legislation before us would address these concerns.
What became clear from witness testimony into Bill is that this is not a silver bullet when it comes to public safety. We believe that the priority of the government needs to be addressing the lack of training, resources and integration of information and monitoring technologies with the responsible public service agencies.
Unfortunately, exactly the opposite is happening under the Conservative government. The 2012 budget plan announced cuts of $143 million to the Canada Border Services Agency. These reckless cuts are going to have an impact on the safety and efficiency of our borders.
The Conservatives saying this will not have an impact on our front line services is simply wishful thinking. We know that 325 jobs on the front line of border crossings across the country will be cut; intelligence branch of the CBSA has been hard hit, losing 100 positions; and 19 sniffer dog units are being slashed due to budget reductions. This is outrageous and no way to keep Canadians safe from foreign criminals who will now have an easier time getting across our borders.
Canadians want us to stop criminals and terrorists before they arrive in Canada. However, Conservative cuts will mean that Canadian officials will have to try to do the best they can with less.
As I have mentioned, the official opposition's primary concern with this legislation is the arbitrary power it gives the minister. In fact, it seems as if the has not seen a problem that cannot be solved by giving him more power. The concern about the overly broad powers to keep people out of Canada on public policy considerations was perhaps best articulated by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association in its brief on Bill to the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration:
This vague provision, imbues the Minister with an unacceptable level of discretion in deciding who may be blocked from entering Canada, and politicizes this process.
Even the minister seemed to acknowledge, when he visited the immigration committee, that limits to his power were needed. On October 24 of last year he presented us a set of guidelines, and we took him at his word that he was serious when he said, “the committee may recommend that we codify these guidelines in the bill”. When New Democrats, in good faith, moved to do just that, every single government member rejected it—another modest amendment defeated by the uncompromising majority.
This bill also seeks to limit appeals based on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. Amnesty International told the committee studying this bill that this section runs afoul of international law and that denying individuals access to this process might result in their being sent to torture or persecution.
New Democrats do not believe that the minister should be relieved of the obligation to consider humanitarian and compassionate circumstances, including the best interests of children. We moved reasonable amendments to restore the minister's ability to consider these factors, with a caveat that the minister has reasonable grounds to believe it is justified. Again that was voted down by the other side.
New Democrats also sought to curb some of the harsher provisions that redefine serious criminality and strip permanent Canadian residents of due process rights. Consider a piece in the Ottawa Citizen a few months ago, called “Canada's new exiles”, which details the case of a young Somali man being deported to Mogadishu, one of the most violent and dangerous places on earth, despite having no connection to that troubled city. The piece goes on to point out, as many of our witnesses did, that:
It is not uncommon for immigrants and refugees who arrive as children to assume they are citizens, or never put their mind to the question until the government moves to deport them.
Actually, I had such a conversation with a taxi driver just the other day, who was shocked that he was not a citizen.
Finally, I must articulate to the House what I feel is the most egregious element of the legislation before us. It is a public relations stunt. There is no evidence that criminality is more prevalent among visitors or permanent Canadian residents. In fact, it is quite the opposite. There is little evidence to show that the provisions in this legislation will make Canadian communities any safer. Yet again we find the Conservative government offering solutions to problems that do not exist at the expense of addressing ones that do.
New Democrats know that the vast majority of newcomers to Canada are law-abiding people who want to build better lives for themselves and their families. I hope that as a Parliament we can move and spend more effort making sure they are treated fairly, have the resources they need and can be reunited with their families. On this side of the House we believe that the minister should focus less on press conferences that negatively portray newcomers and, instead, work with the to make sure border and law enforcement officials have the resources they need to keep us safe from criminals of all backgrounds.
Mr. Speaker, I agree with every single point just made by the immigration critic for the official opposition. However, I also believe that if I had been asked the question, which I imagine the may ask me, do I not believe that foreign criminals who have committed serious crimes in Canada should not be able to continue to stay here much longer after the deportation order, I would agree with him.
How can I agree with both of them? The essence of my amendments goes to the problem that we have with this legislation, which is that the legislation goes too far. It is overly broad, overly harsh and creates an unlimited discretion that we have not seen in previous immigration acts, allowing the minister, for instance, to deny permanent residency. Thus, someone who is not already in Canada could be denied the chance to come to Canada for a very vague and undefined purpose of public policy reasons.
While I was not a member of the committee, we reviewed the testimony that was given at committee, and the amendments I am putting forward today are drawn from the evidence given at that committee by the Canadian Bar Association, the Canadian Council for Refugees, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers.
I am particularly grateful to Professor Donald Galloway of the University of Victoria for his help in preparing these amendments. He is one of the founders of the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers and recently stood for election in Victoria as a Green Party candidate. I am indebted to him for his help.
What we have with this legislation is a public relations title, the faster removal of foreign criminals act. However, it goes beyond that. The bill would affect people who are not accused or convicted of criminality. It would affect people who are relatives of those who have been deemed inadmissible. For instance, an excellent example of where the bill fails to achieve the proper balance is on the subject of misrepresentation. Under Bill , if someone is found guilty of misrepresentation on their application to come to Canada they are barred for five years. There is no distinction made between deliberate fraud or misrepresentation and the kinds of errors that occur through faulty language skills, such as inadvertent, unintentional misrepresentations.
In the brief time I have been a member of Parliament, I have been exposed to so many immigration cases on behalf of my constituents. I have seen fact sets that I simply would not have imagined occur, but they occur with great regularity. I have Canadian citizens whose child was born in the U.S. and who have come back together and have never got around to sorting out the child's citizenship. These children, for all intents and purposes, are Canadian. However, under Bill , if they run afoul of the law and are convicted of something with a six-month sentence they are going to be inadmissible for further application.
We could see families ripped apart through this legislation. The piece that is missing is the ability to take into account all of the circumstances. One size does not fit all. This legislation makes no distinction, for instance, between conditional sentences, which are given out in the community, usually for lesser offences, and sentences that apply to someone being jailed.
For me personally, and not speaking on behalf of all the organizations that submitted concerns to the committee, the most egregious part of the bill is proposed section 22.1 of the act, because it will give the minister of citizenship and immigration the right to deny temporary resident status for up to three years for what are described as “public policy considerations”. These are not defined. In other words, the public policy considerations are not tied to the public relations title of the bill, the faster removal of foreign criminals act. A public policy consideration could be unlimited, given that it is a matter of the minister's discretion. If there is a public policy that we do not want foreign funded radicals opposing pipelines in Canada, I submit that that would be a class of person that a less reasonable than the current one would use in the future to bar people from coming to Canada on a whim.
This goes against the grain of everything this country is about, that we as a country have been enriched by accepting and bringing in a wide range of citizens and residents from all around the world. However, this bill would allow children, for instance, who have been here for their whole lives to be deported for relatively minor offences, without access to appeal. This is simply against what Canada and Canadian citizens want. If it were more properly balanced, I do not think anyone on this side of the House would have a problem with it.
The bill states that those falling under section 34, that is, people who are inadmissible on grounds of security, or on the grounds of human or international rights violations under section 35, or on the grounds of organized criminality under section 37, can no longer apply for compassionate, humanitarian consideration. This would be overly broad. As I mentioned, the hon. member for has put forward a number of the kinds of circumstances where we would not, in the normal course of things, imagine that Canada would sweep up people, deport them and deprive them of their opportunity for an appeal.
Those of us on this side of the House who want to see the bill amended want it amended so that it would actually focus the minister's responsibilities and those of law enforcement on the removal of those people who are a legitimate threat to peace and security, people who actually fall under the category of criminality, who have been convicted of offences involving crimes of violence.
This legislation does not have any of those caveats that would allow law enforcement agencies, immigration and citizenship agents, and the minister to make a decision, with compassionate and humanitarian Canadian values at play, that we not uproot a person, a child or teenager, who has lived in this country virtually all their life. He or she may not yet have their citizenship. They are permanent residents or are temporary residents. The permanent residents category is very large in this country for people who have literally been here all their lives, except for perhaps the first six months or two years of life. This legislation does not take into account any of those circumstances in deciding if people can be deported, and they will not have access to ministerial discretion and further appeal.
I mentioned earlier that it would deem people inadmissible if they are related to someone else deemed inadmissible. Family members who want to come to Canada for a visit and who have committed no crime can, under Bill , be told that they cannot come to Canada, even though the inadmissible family member is not travelling with them.
This does not seem to fit any public policy rationale. It appears to exclude people through association. Moreover, given that other family members may be residing in Canada, it would only serve to further punish a family that has already had a family member ruled inadmissible and been removed.
If a person released from detention is subject to inadmissibility on grounds of security, they could be released on condition. Essentially, inadmissibility on security grounds could speak to a whole range of reasons. These are not necessarily identified in this legislation, that is, in what way the person is a security danger.
The mandatory conditions do not really need to be added to the bill because we already have adequate measures under existing legislation to deal with most of the circumstances that would be of concern to Canadians.
In closing, I would ask the whether he is not willing, even at this late date, to consider that the bill may be overly broad. I will not say that the bill's purposes are public relations, because I think there will be circumstances in which Canadians will be glad to see some of the provisions of the bill. However, surely, even at this late date, at report stage, we could take on board some amendments in line with the recommendation of so many expert witnesses to ensure that Bill speaks to Canadian values, speaks to the rule of law and our traditions that people have a right to be heard, that their side of the story gets to be heard. These traditions and rule of law go back to the earliest history of our western civilization. They go back to Magna Carta and we should not ignore them.
Extreme examples can be used by the minister. I will also put forward the example of a child who has been in this country virtually all of his or her life. To remove that child without access to humanitarian or compassionate grounds would go too far.
Surely some of these amendments could be accepted by the Privy Council side of the House.
Mr. Speaker, I commend the hon. member for for her constant due diligence. I know it is a particular challenge to effectively be an independent member and yet participate in an informed way in debates on virtually all bills in the House. We all admire her for that even if I do not agree with the substance of her intervention here.
We did consider opposition amendments. The member does not have an opportunity to sit at every committee. However, had she been at the immigration committee during its consideration of Bill , she would have heard a huge number of witnesses supporting the bill in its various aspects.
Let me just address a couple of the points my colleague raised. One was the inadmissibility of family members. In one respect the bill would make it easier for family members of people who are currently inadmissible to come into Canada. If one of the family members is medically inadmissible, currently all members of the family cannot come into Canada. We would end that broad reach of inadmissibility through an amendment in the bill, because we do not think family members should be penalized because of the sickness of one of them.
However, what we are seeking to do on the restrictive side is to render inadmissible family members of those foreign nationals who have committed human or international rights violations or been involved in organized criminality. The member says there is no public policy rationale for this, but in point of fact there is.
In the last Parliament the government was hammered by the opposition for allowing the admission into Canada of close family members of the former Tunisian dictator, Belhassen Trabelsi. There is a reasonable expectation that close family members of a dictator or a mafioso, for example, have profited or benefited from, and are certainly conscious of, the crimes that have been committed. This is one example of where there is a very sound public policy rationale to make sure that the wives and children of dictators, major human rights violators and mafiosi, do not come into Canada. Would the member not agree that is a reasonable public policy?
Mr. Speaker, I want to comment on Bill and the amendments that are being proposed at this stage.
It is important to recognize that throughout the committee process we listened to a wide variety of presenters, experts and different types of stakeholders. At the end of the day numerous amendments were brought forward. There was a great sense of disappointment from the Liberal Party and, I believe, the other opposition members as well, in regard to the government's refusal to recognize that it has gone too far.
I have had the opportunity outside Ottawa to talk about Bill and to express the general concerns we have, including the attitude that the and the government have toward immigrants. It is not an immigrant friendly government. Going forward we will see the true colours of this Reform-Conservative party unfold, as we have witnessed first-hand in terms of some of the changes that the government has made to immigration programming, the delays a person experiences in being able to acquire citizenship, and in general the manner in which the government portrays refugees in a very negative way. We are now seeing the very negative connotation of 1.5 million-plus permanent residents being labelled as foreigners.
When I think of the amendments at this stage, they are nowhere near as extensive as they could have been had the minister been open to receiving amendments and allowing committee members on the government side to support what I believe were good, solid amendments to the bill by the Liberals and other opposition members. We listened to a number of presenters at committee. I want to comment on a couple of amendments.
Motion No. 25 is a transitional provision that would make the bill retroactive. It would be simply unfair to have Bill apply to those who commit offences before the bill actually comes into force.
Richard Kurland is an immigration lawyer who comes before the citizenship and immigration committee as a witness on a regular basis. He said:
Imposing, with retroactive effect, the penalty of removal from Canada is incompatible with some of the tenets of our criminal justice system. The sentencing judge did not have the opportunity at the time of sentencing to deal with the individuals, so, ironically, rather than expedite the removal of criminals from Canada, it may well retard that effort, given the legal issues that are raised by the issue of retroactivity.
The Canadian Bar Association stated on that particular point:
The retroactive application of Bill C-43 has the potential to create significant unfairness. Bill C-43’s transitional provisions would deny appeal rights even if the offence or conviction in question was before the amendments, unless the case has been referred to the Immigration Division before the provisions come into force. The timing of the referral is not an equitable basis on which to decide who ought to be stripped of appeal rights. In the course of sentencing, criminal courts take a holistic view of an offender’s circumstances and the consequences of the sentence imposed. The loss of a right to appeal a deportation order is an important and valid consideration for a sentencing court. The retroactive nature of the provisions is particularly harsh for individuals who have received a longer sentence on the basis that they would be allowed to serve their sentences in the community under conditional sentence orders.
Throughout the process, we heard very striking presentations which pointed out many of the mistakes in Bill . It is a flawed piece of legislation. It the minister wanted to do the House a favour, I would suggest that he would seriously look at putting this bill on hold. At the very least, maybe he could allow for a new bill to be brought in to deal with the issues the government chose to ignore at committee. The mistakes are fairly extensive, and that is just referring to the motions that are before us, not to mention the different amendments that were brought forward at committee which we were not able to reintroduce at report stage.
Specifically dealing with other motions, we could talk about deleting clause 8 which would allow for the use of public policy considerations to deny entry. We do not support the minister's ability to determine based on “public policy considerations” an individual's inadmissibility.
If we listen to what the witnesses had to say, Barbara Jackman, a constitutional lawyer stated, “I have no doubt that the public policy grounds will lead to denying people admission on the basis of speech.”
Michael Greene from the Canadian Bar Association stated:
We believe this power is unlimited, unaccountable, un-Canadian, and unnecessary. It doesn't have a place in a free and democratic society that cherishes civil liberties and fundamental freedoms. It's wrong to say that the minister is currently powerless. We have nine different inadmissibilities to Canada. We also have hate crime laws and anti-terrorism laws that specifically target people who promote violence against vulnerable groups in society. People with track records or an intention to engage in hateful rhetoric in Canada are inadmissible under existing immigration laws.
Motion No. 7 would delete clause 9. This clause in Bill would remove the H and C access for those inadmissible under sections 34, 35 and 37. Again, we do not support the restricted access to humanitarian and compassionate grounds for applications as the process itself does not delay deportation. Witnesses testified that sections 34, 35 and 37 are broadly interpreted by courts. Individuals who may get caught by sections 34, 35 and 37 should be given access to humanitarian and compassionate grounds.
Again, individuals like Barb Jackman stated:
What you don't understand, or what I think you need to understand, in terms of that legislation is that for persons for whom there are reasonable grounds to believe they were members of a terrorist organization, or at some point in their youth they may have been involved in street gangs or something like that, and they have grown up and left it behind them, it leaves them without any remedy whatsoever on humanitarian grounds. That is not a piecemeal change to the legislation. That is a fundamental change to our immigration history. From the time we got legislation in 1910 there has always been a broad discretion on the part of the minister or a body like the immigration appeal division to allow people to remain in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds in recognition of the fact that hard and fast rules don't fit with the fact that people are human beings. This legislation will mean that for the first time ever there will be classes of people who don't get any kind of discretion, who don't have access to any kind of discretion, who won't have anybody looking at their case. That is so out of keeping with our humanitarian tradition in terms of the way our legislation has always been structured.
Angus Grant, another immigration lawyer, stated:
--the parameters for finding someone inadmissible under sections 34, 35 and 37 are extremely broad. Whereas in criminal law there is the requirement that to find someone guilty we have to establish that they are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, in immigration law we don't even have to find that they have done an act on a balance of probabilities, in other words, a 50% plus 1% chance that the person committed an act that is proscribed by the IRPA. All we have to show is that there are reasonable grounds to believe that an individual committed an act or was a member of a group that committed an act that is proscribed by the bill.
There is so much more that I could talk about. There were stakeholders and individuals who brought to the table a great deal of background, education and real life experience. They have asked the Conservative government to make changes to Bill so that we could have better immigration law in Canada. However, the government has chosen to ignore the many amendments, which I believe has ultimately led to the bill that we have before us today being fundamentally flawed.
We appeal to the to do the right thing and start looking seriously at voting in favour of amendments so that we can minimize the flaws in this piece of legislation.
Mr. Speaker, first, I would sincerely like to thank the hon. member for for his forthright opposition to the bill, because nothing could more clearly demonstrate how far removed the Liberal Party has become from the common sense of Canadians on matters of immigration and national security than his opposition.
The member quoted from a wide array of left-wing immigration lawyers who have a stake in the broken status quo. They are the folks who make the appeals.
It is interesting. We have immigration lawyers who, funnily enough, he did not quote, who have done some of these appeals and who agree with the bill. He should know one of them, Reis Pagtakhan, who ran against him for his nomination. He said that the bill deserves support in the “provision that eliminates the right of permanent residents to appeal removals to the immigration appeal division for sentences of six months or more in prison. While some”--like some of the far left lawyers he quoted from, like Barbara Jackman--“argue that this would unfairly penalize long-term permanent residents who may be deported for their actions, what is missed in this argument is that the permanent residents who face deportation are criminals. It should be stated that these individuals are not alleged criminals; they are not accused; they are not innocent. They have been convicted of a crime in a court of law”.
Similarly, Julie Taub said:
I have represented those who have been found to be criminally inadmissible to Canada, and I have gone to the Immigration Appeal Division to get a stay of removal for them, successfully in almost all cases.... Unfortunately, the majority of the clients I have represented reoffend or they breach their conditions.... I listen to their heart-felt apologies and promises, but time and time again they reoffend and they breach the conditions.... I really support this bill because criminals remain in Canada who are not Canadian, and it's almost impossible to deport them.
Why did the member not listen at committee to the victims of violence, to the crime victims organizations, to the immigrant organizations, to the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, to the Canadian Police Association, all of whom endorsed this bill? Why did he disregard their pleas for us to deport serious convicted foreign criminals more quickly?
Mr. Speaker, the minister's question is flawed on many points.
First and foremost, I would suggest to the minister that I listened to far more hours of debate at the immigration committee than he did to all of the different stakeholders who came before the committee.
Second, his information is flawed. Reis Pagtakhan, the individual he referred to and whom he actually quoted, did not run against me in the nomination. He was a good supporter of mine, but he did not run against me in the nomination.
If he wants me to quote Reis Pagtakhan, because after all he quoted Reis Pagtakhan, I will provide a quote that he gave at committee. Had the minister been there maybe he would have been able to reflect on this particular quote.
In relation to clause 8 and the minister's grab for more power, Reis Pagtakhan stated:
This section is troubling in that the ministerial discretion opens up the possibility of decisions being made without clearer criteria. Canadians are entitled to know what actions could cause a person to be barred from coming to Canada.
That is why I say that just because the minister has said something it does not mean that it is true. Quite often it is not true. That is one of the issues we have to address.
At the end of the day we want to see immigration policy that is well thought out and immigration policy that makes sense. Had the minister actually listened to what was being said at the citizenship and immigration committee, the bill would not be in its current form because amendments would have been passed at the committee stage that would have made the legislation better for all Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the consideration of all members, particularly those of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, for their review of this important legislation, Bill . We have already heard about the number of the amendments proposed to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and other statutes proposed here, although I believe there has been a number of mischaracterizations of the bill.
The bill seeks to do three things primarily. First is to make it easier for the government to remove dangerous foreign criminals from our country. These are convicted serious foreign criminals. Second is to make it harder for those who may pose a risk to Canada to enter the country in the first place. Third is to remove barriers for genuine visitors who want to come to Canada.
There is a number of provisions, the most prominent of which would be the elimination of access to the Immigration Appeal Division for foreign nationals who have been convicted by a Canadian criminal court of what IRPA currently deems “a serious crime”, that is to say a crime which has resulted in a penal sentence of six months or more.
On this point, there has been a lot of obfuscation from the opposition members who have suggested that we will lower the bar for defining what constitutes a serious crime in immigration law. That is completely inaccurate. In 2002, when Parliament adopted the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, it decided in its wisdom, under the leadership of a former Liberal government, to define “serious criminality” under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act as a crime that had resulted in a penal sentence of six months or more. That is the law and we would not change the law in that respect. We hear all sorts of completely bizarre, risible scenarios from the opposition about how this would be applied.
The member for just imagined that Canadians who bought alcohol when they were not of the age of majority in the United States would get a six-month penal sentence in Canada. I do not know what planet he is living on, but that is not an offence in Canada at all and it is certainly not a criminal offence that carries a six-month penal sentence.
We have heard from opposition members that poor, innocent young Canadians who just happen to have six marijuana plans will be caught by police and they will be thrown out of the country pre-emptively because of this. Again, it is an effort by the opposition members to mislead. The criminal offence to which they refer is possession of a substantial amount of narcotics, in that case six marijuana plants, with the intention of trafficking.
Why did Parliament impose a mandatory minimum sentence for possession of six plants with intention for trafficking? It is precisely because that is how the organized drug gangs operate. They get a bunch of people to cultivate relatively small numbers of plants so that in the past if they were caught, they would not have faced a serious penal sanction. Parliament decided to render that a serious crime with a mandatory minimum prison sentence for trafficking drugs to kids. However, anyone who knows anything about actual sentencing practices will realize that a six-month penal sentence is, according to Parliament, quite appropriately a sentence that carries a penal sanction of six months or more.
The opposition members constantly try to diminish the gravity of these offences, but they do not seem to recognize that these offences create victims in Canada. That is why Sharon Rosenfeldt of the Victims of Violence has said:
As an organization that works with victims of violent crimes and their families, we applaud this proposed change. We feel that streamlining the deportation of convicted criminals from Canada will make our country safer. Limiting access to the Immigration and Refugee Board’s Immigration Appeal Division, and thus reducing the amount of time that convicted criminals may spend in Canada, is an important proactive step in ensuring the safety of all Canadians.
Similarly, the Canadian Police Association has said that it:
—welcomes the introduction of [this bill]...particularly with respect to the enhanced prohibitions against those who have committed serious crimes abroad from coming to Canada....This legislation will help us by streamlining the procedures necessary to remove individuals who remain at-risk to re-offend.
Similarly, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police said that it:
—supports the efforts of [this bill] to provide for a more expeditious removal from Canada of foreigners who are convicted of committing serious crimes against Canadians. As well, we support measures to prevent those with a history of committing criminal offenses, or who pose a risk to our society, from entering Canada. The Act will help to make Canadians and those who legitimately enter Canada safer.
Let the record be clear that the opposition is disregarding the voices of victims' rights organizations, our police and those who are charged with keeping our society safe. What the government seeks to do is when foreign nationals have received a serious criminal sentence of six months or more, the CBSA will then issue a removal order against them, an exclusion order, deeming them inadmissible to stay in Canada. They will no longer be able to appeal that to the Immigration Appeals Division as a result of the bill.
In the past, by appealing to the IAD of the Immigration and Refugee Board, that would typically gain foreign criminals about nine months for that appeal to be heard. If that appeal was refused, they would then appeal that negative decision to the Federal Court. Occasionally they would then be able to further appeal the negative decision by the Federal Court to the Federal Court of Appeals. That takes serious convicted foreign criminals, who have already benefited from due process, including the presumption of innocence in our criminal system, and allows them to delay their deportation for, in that case, two to three years.
That is how Canada ends up with people like Jackie Tran, whom I mentioned before, who was running a Vietnamese drug gang in Calgary. The gang was responsible for the deaths of several people. Like most capos in organized criminal groups, this fellow was too smart to actually pull the trigger, as far as we know. Instead he had other henchmen do that for him. There is no doubt he was in charge. The problem was the police were only able to get him on relatively minor offences, like assault with a weapon, drug trafficking, drug possession and failure to comply with court orders. Because of the current provision in IRPA, which allowed him to appeal his removal order to the IAD for sentences of two years less a day, he managed to delay his removal by six years.
Patrick De Florimonte, a Guyanese national, was found guilty of several criminal offences.
Charges included assault with a weapon, assault causing bodily harm, uttering threats, multiple counts of theft, drug possession, drug trafficking and failure to comply with court orders. He managed to use these loopholes. which we would close, to delay removal by four and a half years.
Then there is the case of Gheorghe Capra, who had over 60 convictions of fraud, forgery, conspiracy to commit fraud, obstructing a police officer, failure to comply with court orders. Again, because those sentences were all less than two years, he managed to appeal those and delay deportation for five years. He reoffended and created new victims.
I honestly cannot imagine why any member of this place would want to allow someone like Mr. Capra, who has no right to be in Canada, is not a Canadian citizen and lost through his own volition the privilege of staying in Canada through his criminal recidivism, to continue to delay his removal from Canada and claim new victims.
For example, there is the case of Mr. Jeyachandran Balasubramaniam, who was convicted of assault with a weapon, drug possession, drug trafficking and failure to comply with court orders. Again, through the same procedures we would close, he managed to delay his removal for seven years.
That clearly demonstrates why the provisions to limit appeals to the IAD are so broadly supported.
Let me address a couple of the other points in the short time available to me. The member from Winnipeg talked about how terrible it was that we would close access to humanitarian and compassionate consideration for certain people. What he failed to mention was that the people we would exclude from H and C consideration would be those who had been found by our legal system to be inadmissible on security grounds for human and international rights violations and for organized criminality.
I will give the House one example. Léon Mugesera was one of the members responsible for inciting the Rwandan genocide that led to the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians. He got to Canada.
When it was learned that he was involved in the genocide, efforts were made to have him deported from Canada, but he delayed his removal by nearly 20 years. I do not think that the vast majority of Canadians feel that a man involved in genocide should have his application considered on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. This man had no compassion and did not consider the humanity of the victims in the Rwandan genocide.
And that is why we are supporting this bill.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity to speak to Bill .
I had a chance this morning to listen to the members in opposition speak to the bill, which also reminded me of the time we spent at committee.
It may not be the most exciting part of our parliamentary responsibilities for the public to watch, but to suggest in any way, shape or form that the bill did not receive a thorough going-over at committee, after serious and significant debate, presentation of amendments, response to those amendments and the clause-by-clause review of each and every piece of the bill, would be incorrect.
To state that opposition members did not have the opportunity to call their fair percentage of representatives and witnesses, that they did not have the opportunity to present their amendments to the bill and that they did not have the opportunity to speak to their amendments to the bill would be, and is, completely incorrect.
I would note the hon. member from the Liberal Party for did present a number of amendments, one of which we spent a lot of time speaking about and gave due consideration, and we did see an amendment to the bill. It had to do with clause 13, if I could describe it very briefly. The opposition was looking for representation in some report or in some thorough review in the House of Commons of each and every individual who, by the , would have been denied entry into the country for specific reasons that obviously relate to Bill .
We took that advice and took back the amendment. We made a significant change to the piece of legislation in clause 13 of Bill to do exactly what the opposition was concerned about, which was to ensure that the report that is submitted to the House of Commons by the , the review that takes place on an annual basis on all of the work that has taken place at the ministry for a given year, be reported and tabled in the House of Commons.
Each and every one of those individuals who will have received a decision based on the minister's interpretation and understanding of the bill, will be printed in that document and will obviously be presented here on the floor of the House of Commons. Members of the opposition asked for transparency, demanded transparency and came to committee expecting transparency. To suggest that we did not listen, respond or make a strong indication and change to the bill in order to represent that position is simply false.
The minister did a good job of defining the three areas upon which the bill is focused: first, to make it easier for the government to remove dangerous foreign criminals from our country; second, to make it harder for those who may pose a risk to Canada to enter the country in the first place; and third, in a very positive way, to remove barriers for genuine visitors who want to come to Canada.
I did not hear anything from the opposition on the third part of that piece in which we now, under the bill, have ensured that those who wish to come to Canada, and barriers have been placed in front of them, will have the opportunity to get here in a much quicker fashion, or to get here at all in some cases.
When I listen to the opposition members talk about the need for an appeal process, no one on this side of the House would ever suggest that an individual should not have a mechanism to appeal. That is just, fair and how our Canadian society approaches issues such as immigration.
At the same time, I listened to what Jacques Shore from Gowlings said. He said:
—I support clause 24, which removes the appeal rights for persons convicted of crimes and sentenced to imprisonment for six months or more. This will speed up deportation of those convicted of serious offences. Criminals should not slow down the Canadian justice system by relying on years of appeals and giving them the opportunity to reoffend....
Bill C-43, if passed, could prevent people who have demonstrated track records of blatant lack of respect for our society's cherished values from coming to Canada....
—Bill C-43 is a step in the right direction. It will prevent criminals from taking advantage of our overly generous appeals process.
I did a little review and had a look at what Mr. Shore brought forward to committee. In fact, in 2007, there were 830 appeals. In 2008, there were 954; in 2009, 1,086; in 2010, 849; and in 2011, 564 appeals. On average, since 2007, there have been over 850 appeals annually to the IAD by serious criminals trying to delay their deportation.
As of May 2012, there were 2,747 appeals pending to the IAD on the basis of criminality. That means one of every four appeals to the IAD comes from those who have been convicted of a serious crime and have now used the appeal process, not for reason of defence but for reason of offence. The offence is that they have committed a serious crime and they are using every trick in the book in an attempt to stay here in Canada because they do not want to face the responsibility of a conviction for their crime.
If that is acceptable to the opposition, I understand why they stand here today and oppose the bill. If that is part of the reason they do, that is their right. However, on this side of the House, when we speak about serious crime and those who have taken advantage of the opportunity to come here as permanent residents, this government will stand on behalf of the millions and millions who have come to this country, earned permanent residency, earned Canadian citizenship and have done so in a way that is respectful, shows dignity and allows all of us in Canada to take pride in the immigration system that we should have in this country.
We have also said the legislation will ensure the deportation of foreign criminals will actually take place properly instead of in unjust delay.
The member from Winnipeg brought up questions about what defines serious criminality, at committee and here in the House, and the minister has responded on three separate occasions. The Canadian Police Association has said that while the overwhelming majority of those who come to Canada make a tremendous contribution to our shared communities, there does remain a small minority who flout Canadian law and take advantage of drawn-out proceedings to remain in the country at a risk to public safety.
We heard at committee, from witnesses and from the opposition, that the definition of a serious crime is one that results in a sentence of six months or more. The member from Winnipeg has, on a number of occasions, used an example that the has pushed aside as being an improper and, in fact, wrong example.
For the sake of the record, what we spoke about at committee and also what we are speaking about here in the House of Commons as the bill moves forward is moving from serious criminality of two years to serious criminality of six months, in terms of conviction and sentence.
Let me state for the record some examples of offences from actual cases where terms of imprisonment of six months or greater were imposed: assault with a weapon, which resulted in 13 months in jail in one case and two years less a day in jail in another; possession of a schedule 1 substance for the purpose of trafficking; sexual assault; breaking and entering; possession of tools of breaking and entering and theft; robbery; multiple counts of forgery; possession of counterfeit mark; possession of instruments to be used to commit forgery; causing death via criminal negligence; manslaughter; and finally, murder.
When we talk about serious crimes, those are the examples that we are referring to. To take up examples that do not even border on the edge of serious criminality is really inexcusable. What that does is it gives the impression that there is something that is not right with the bill, when in fact when you look at the content, each and every clause of the bill, it speaks very significantly and very specifically to what a serious crime is and how an individual, from permanent residency, is forced to at least live through the responsibility of the act they committed.
I will conclude by stating that we went through the bill from one end to the other. We listened when we needed to make a change that makes sense from a legislative perspective. It should have happened years ago, but we now have a bill to ensure that foreign criminals will be removed on an expeditious basis and those who are responsible for those serious crimes will have to serve the sentence.
Mr. Speaker, I thank the House for the opportunity to speak to this important bill on behalf of my constituents of Surrey North.
It is safe to say that dealing with those non-citizens who commit serious crimes in Canada is essential and something in which we as New Democrats strongly believe. Unfortunately, the bill leaves much to be desired. Bill misses the mark and fails to address any of the holes with regard to training, allocation of resources and monitoring within the public service agencies that deal with non-citizens. Moreover, the bill would not protect public safety as the Conservatives would like everyone to believe.
Not only is the bill flawed in its content, but it also paints newcomers in a negative light. The bill redefines serious criminality for the purpose of access to an appeal of termination of admissibility. The bill would place increased discretionary powers in the hands of the by bluntly removing all necessary checks and balances that are in place.
Newcomers arrive on Canada's shores with the same goal as those who have been living here for generations. They want to build a better life for themselves and their families. The majority of newcomers never break the law, yet the Conservatives would paint with the same brush the few criminals and the many non-violent, non-criminal newcomers who arrive in Canada each year.
Let me be clear. We strongly support the quick removal of violent and dangerous non-citizen criminals.
Unfortunately, Bill would not succeed in its aims, but rather would give sweeping discretionary powers to the while completely ignoring much needed training and resources.
A number of people who spoke at committee pointed out that law enforcement agencies and immigration services are severely lacking resources. Our public service employees are lacking the resources to deal with people who do not comply with the current citizenship and immigration regulations and laws. The Conservatives know it is unfair to ask these already overburdened agencies to do more with fewer resources.
The Conservatives also know it is inappropriate to relieve the of the responsibility to examine humanitarian circumstances.
The fact of the matter is that the Conservatives do not care. What they do care about is ramming through their radical Conservative agenda while hiding from oversight and avoiding accountability. The government has avoided accountability before. We saw it with the F-35s. The Conservatives are not taking responsibility for that fiasco. We also saw it with the with regard to the meat poisoning that happened in Alberta. The government has failed to take responsibility and has failed to account for those serious flaws.
Clearly, the Conservative government's objective is to introduce measures that would contribute to a less transparent and more arbitrary approach to immigration.
As a responsible opposition, we have attempted to restore some vital checks and balances to this bill. We New Democrats have asked the government to work with us. We asked Conservative members at committee stage. In that effort we introduced a number of amendments to work across party lines to make the system better, to deal with violent offenders. However, the Conservatives would not entertain any of the amendments that were offered to them. This has happened not only with respect to this bill but with other bills that have been introduced. The Conservatives continually fail to look at some amendments.
Surely, of the thousands of amendments we have introduced at committee stage and report stage some of them would make sense. The government has failed to take a reasonable approach to our immigration system and other measures that have been put forward in this House. The amendments that were introduced were all rejected in favour of an irresponsible approach with no checks and balances and no accountability.
This is a bill that does not help our communities, nor does it respect our judicial process. Instead, it removes any discretion for a judge to consider the nature of the crime and the context in which it was committed. This includes any potential mental illness of refugees from war-torn countries. One can imagine coming from a war-torn country. Clearly, this bill does not address that.
Safe communities have long been a priority in my constituency of Surrey North and across the country. The objectives in the preamble of this bill make sense. Members can all agree that non-citizens who commit serious crimes should be dealt with quickly. For those reasons the NDP supported the bill at second reading in the hope that the Conservative government would be reasonable and would look at some of the amendments we had to offer to look at ways to improve the system. Yet again, like all the other bills that have come through the House, it has failed to entertain any one of those amendments. Once again we see the Conservatives pushing through their agenda at the expense of new and existing Canadians. This has been pointed out. The so-called foreign criminals, while there are 1.5 million permanent residents, is how these individuals are classified.
It is difficult to understand why the government is paying lip-service to the problem of non-citizen criminals and not addressing the important issue of shortage of resources. It is continuing to make cuts to the Canada Border Services Agency, Correctional Service Canada and the RCMP. Basically, while the minister is given more power, those on the front lines are once again being asked to do more with less. Members saw the report from the PBO's office yesterday where more services, front line workers and officers are being cut than at the back end. Clearly, the priorities of the government are not aligned with what needs to be done.
When I talk about priorities, there are constituents of mine who have come into my office wanting to be reunited with their parents and loved ones. They are having to wait six to eight years. Members have seen the long lineups and wait lists in a number of categories. The government has failed to address the wait lists for reuniting families.
I am an immigrant. I came to this country 33 years ago. It was through family reunification that I was able to come to this wonderful country. Now the same system is in place but the wait time is eight years to reunite with loved ones. That is not acceptable.
We believe we can prevent non-citizens who commit serious crimes from abusing our appeals process. We also believe this can be achieved without undermining their rights. Once again, the Conservatives plan to do exactly what they want to do with no regard for the people of this country or the democratic processes by which it should be governed. There is the rule of law.
Members all know what Conservatives do when they do not like rules. They break them or they undermine Parliament to change them. This is exactly what is happening with Bill . We have seen this with Bill and Bill , and the omnibus crime bill. If they do not like the rules, they will change them in such a way to drive the Conservative agenda.
In summary, we agree that non-citizens who commit serious crimes in Canada should be dealt with quickly. However, we cannot ignore the fact that this bill would concentrate more arbitrary power in the hands of a minister without the appropriate checks and balances.
My sincere hope is that the Conservatives will take a step back and think about the consequences of painting law-abiding newcomers who arrive in Canada each year with the same tainted brush.
We know that the method by which we go about removing foreign criminals from Canadian soil is flawed. We know it needs to be fixed. Bill fails to do this and hurts both Canadians and newcomers.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to contribute to this debate today on Bill , the faster removal of foreign criminals act.
I do want to acknowledge, at the outset, the work done by all members of the parliamentary committee on citizenship and immigration in reviewing this bill in detail, clause by clause.
I also want to acknowledge the tremendous work of two individuals, the and the parliamentary secretary, for leading, in my view, what was perhaps the broadest reform of the immigration system in Canada in a positive way and also for their very active participation in this debate, both showing their respect for Parliament. I genuinely appreciate that, and I think all members of the House do as well.
Bill , if implemented, would not only be an important contribution to safeguarding the integrity and security of our immigration system, but it would also enhance the safety and security of all Canadians.
The measures in the bill would close the loopholes that currently allow individuals found inadmissible to Canada to remain in this country long after they have worn out their welcome. These tough but fair measures would ensure that serious foreign criminals would not be allowed to endlessly abuse Canadians' generosity.
There are, unfortunately, countless examples of convicted criminals who have used the endless appeals currently available to delay their deportation for years. I will refresh the memory of this House with respect to one example: the case of Joselito Rabaya Arganda, who came to Canada from the Philippines in 1995.
Arganda was sentenced to two years in prison, in 2007, for a wide variety of crimes, among them forgery, credit card fraud, possession of counterfeit money and possession of goods obtained by crime. These are very serious crimes. In fact, in this example with respect to identity theft and financial crime, this Parliament has taken some action to deal with these crimes because they are as serious as any other type of crimes. These are, in fact, not victimless crimes. People suffered and paid dearly because of Mr. Arganda's crimes.
I would also like to make note that Mr. Arganda's trip to prison was not, unfortunately, a story of rehabilitation and redemption. In fact, it was quite the opposite. When he got out of prison, he returned to his life of crime. He was sentenced again in 2009 for possession of property obtained by crime and for failing to comply with court orders. The following year, he was sentenced for possession of a weapon.
Perhaps the critics of this legislation and those who oppose this legislation need to pause for a moment and ask themselves what that weapon was intended to be used for or for whom it was intended.
Arganda is not just a dangerous foreign criminal but a repeat dangerous foreign criminal, someone whom I suspect anyone of any political stripe on either side of this House would like to see deported immediately and accordingly.
On May 10, 2010, the Immigration and Refugee Board issued a removal order. Under the existing rules, Arganda had no right to appeal because individuals sentenced to two years or more are not eligible to appeal their deportation.
However, this individual managed to find a unique way to get around this. He got the Manitoba Court of Appeal to grant him permission to appeal the previous two-year criminal sentence he received—a sentence he had already served.
To relay what happened next, let me quote from Winnipeg Sun columnist Tom Brodbeck:
If he could get it reduced to two-years-less-a-day retroactively, he would have the right to appeal his deportation. But what court would do that?...That's exactly what...the Manitoba Court of Appeal did.... They reduced the guy's sentence by one day so he could appeal his deportation, even though he had already finished serving his sentence. Madness.
It is time to close these loopholes, stand up for Canadian families and Canadian communities and not stand with dangerous foreign criminals.
I sincerely do not believe that anyone can listen to the details of this case, and others, and not conclude that it is an assault on our immigration system.
Worse yet, it sends a message to the Canadian families we all stand here and represent: that there are two tiers of justice and that dangerous foreign criminals have the lenient end of it.
Perhaps the opposition should carefully consider this legislation. I know it has done so at committee, but it should consider it again and support this bill at report stage and again at third reading.
Under Bill , convicted serious foreign criminals, like the individual mentioned, who were given a sentence of more than six months, as well as those who have committed serious crimes outside Canada, would no longer be able to appeal their deportation before the Immigration Appeal Division of the Immigration and Refugee Board. This change would help expedite the removal of serious foreign criminals from Canada.
Canadians rightly expect a fair immigration system that is not open to abuse. Bill contains other measures that would help do exactly that.
For example, foreign nationals who are inadmissible on particularly serious grounds—war crimes, for example—would be barred from accessing a program that is meant for exceptional cases deserving humanitarian and compassionate consideration. This would ensure that Canada is not a safe haven for these dangerous criminals. In fact, in many ways the measures we are debating here today are no-brainers that are long overdue and would close long-standing loopholes in the immigration system. Canadians should never have to be endangered by a dangerous foreign criminal who has exploited our system.
Newspaper columnist Lorne Gunter captured this perfectly when he wrote, several months ago, that Bill “...is so sensible it will probably surprise most Canadians that the new policy is not already the law of the land”. In that spirit, I urge all colleagues to support these sensible measures and ensure that Bill C-43 passes into law.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill . Since I am a member of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, I was there to hear for myself what the witnesses and experts had to say about the problems inherent in this bill.
Some of the measures in this bill are at odds with Canada's international obligations. These measures favour what could be described as the exile of criminals who have permanent resident status, rather than opting for a responsible position towards criminals for the safety of all citizens. Furthermore, certain measures in this bill attack the very foundation of our justice system, which includes a fair trial and the right to appeal. Other measures cast such a wide net that this bill will undoubtedly cover situations that will penalize innocent people, just so the Conservative government can create the illusion of security.
The Conservatives' rhetoric and the measures they are proposing do not promote the principles of justice, prevention and rehabilitation—all important Canadian values that truly guarantee stable and lasting security.
This bill was unfortunately not designed to improve the immigration system, but instead was designed as a smokescreen. All of the Conservatives' material outlining why this bill is needed, including the information on the department's website, is based on five exceptions. The five reasons on the Citizenship and Immigration website for taking away the right to appeal in the removal of foreign criminals are all individual cases. These reasons are not based on sound research and statistics.
Public policy should not be based on a few examples. In the House we pass legislation that is supposed to benefit all Canadians, as well as all people living in Canada.
In addition, in the cases raised by the Conservatives, the act was not the problem: no legislative amendments were needed. The problem was in how the act was enforced and in particular the lack of resources. The real problem is that the government insists on amending legislation without ensuring that peace officers and public servants have the tools to enforce it.
The Conservatives claim that they want to change things with this bill. They should be in contact with the different departments to ensure that the changes will be effective in practice, and they should provide the departments with the proper resources. The Conservatives are trying to ignore all that with this amendment to the act, which is nothing more than smoke and mirrors.
The Conservatives' cuts and underfunding of public safety are affecting our country's security. I will give two examples of recent cuts. By 2015, huge cuts will have been made to public safety, to the tune of $687.9 million. The Canada Border Services Agency, the Correctional Service of Canada and the RCMP will bear the brunt of those cuts.
Furthermore, there is no money to meet the needs of front-line police officers. The federal government is refusing to renew funding for the Police Officers Recruitment Fund, which was created in 2008. The government supported the fund with $400 million over five years so that the provinces could recruit more front-line police officers. This is having a direct impact on our country's security.
Here is an example of the strange and unfortunate decisions that the minister is making: one of the changes proposed in this bill gives the minister the discretionary power to deny access to foreign nationals for public policy considerations.
This seems a bit political to me and, unfortunately, it is no way to govern for everyone. Even without these exceptional powers, the minister is abusing his authority for partisan reasons. In 2009, for example, even without the powers that the minister is seeking in the bill, the minister denied a British MP for inappropriate reasons.
The Federal Court recognized that the minister made this decision for political reasons. Is it reasonable for him to now ask us to grant him even more power to make such decisions?
The committee proposed nine reasonable amendments. One of them was to include guidelines for ministerial decisions in the bill. It is not surprising that the Conservatives voted against this amendment to include guidelines in the bill. What is really surprising is that the witness who suggested these guidelines to the committee was the minister himself. That is a complete turnaround. It means that this change could potentially occur without Parliament having the right to consider public interest guidelines. One has to wonder about such a situation.
In committee, the minister recognized that the powers granted to him by this bill were excessive unless meaningful criteria were put in place to keep those powers in check. That is why he presented these criteria. Of course, they were reasonable. However, it is not every day that changes are made to determining criteria, such as the risk that a group represents. This is a point that Parliament could have examined but that the minister did not want to include in the bill.
I would like to remind members of a great quote by Benjamin Parker: “With great power comes great responsibility.” The Conservatives do not seem to understand this conventional wisdom, whether we are talking about orange juice, helicopter rides, the use of ministerial websites to announce partisan business or even the introduction of good public policies, which rarely happens these days. The Conservatives are not governing in a way that includes everyone.
When even a Conservative minister's suggestion is rejected solely because it was proposed by the NDP, we see that we are truly dealing with a government that is wilfully blind. It is very strange. The Conservatives are not serious politicians who are truly seeking to improve the bill. As parliamentarians, it is very disappointing for us to be unable to work with them.
The amendments we proposed were well thought out, considered and pertinent. They were based on the evidence given by experts who appeared before the committee. We tried to amend the bill to ensure that it could be implemented effectively, in keeping with the goal of enhancing security and with Canadian law and our values of justice. That seems to have been forgotten in this bill.
In response to an unacceptable amendment of the law, we proposed, for example, an amendment so that people of good faith who make a minor mistake in their application are not treated like dangerous criminals or barred from entering Canada for five years just because of a simple typo in their name or because they failed to list a job they held for a month at the age of 18. Those are the kinds of mistakes that can be made and that will prevent the person from entering Canada for five years. The Conservatives also rejected this amendment without any justification.
The bill reinforces punitive measures without really improving the immigration system or the safety of Canadians, and at the same time attacks our rights and Canadian values. It is truly important to remember that the NDP would like to work with the other parties to ensure the safety of Canadians by taking swift and effective action when non-citizens commit serious crimes. Unfortunately, our offer to collaborate was refused, and I am very disappointed. Consequently, I will not be supporting the bill.
Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of Bill , the faster removal of foreign criminals act. I do not support the opposition's amendments and do not support the NDP and the Liberals attempt to try to prevent this important legislation from becoming law. I would like to thank the minister for his courage and conviction in ensuring that our immigration policy never puts Canadians at risk.
However, members do not have to take it from me why the bill is necessary. Countless organizations and experts support Bill and I know Canadians will as well.
I would like to take this opportunity to inform all members of the House of the important testimony we heard from Mr. Tom Stamatakis, president of the Canadian Police Association, in hopes that the NDP and Liberals will listen to the experts, to our law enforcement officials, and stop playing games with the safety and security of Canadians and support the faster removal of foreign criminals act.
Mr. Stamatakis summed up the Canadian Police Association support for Bill when he stated:
Let me be absolutely clear. Canada as a nation is a stronger country because of immigrants who come here to enrich our communities through a shared culture. Police services across Canada, from Vancouver where I serve as a police constable to Halifax and all points in between, count among our members a number of first and second generation immigrants who serve their adopted country with honour and pride every day, and I'm one of them.
Unfortunately, there are those that come to Canada and choose not to respect and follow our laws. In fact, I was surprised to note, in preparing for my appearance today, that since 2007, according to the Department of Citizenship and Immigration, there have been an average of 900 appeals of deportation orders filed per year by serious criminals, over 4,000 in total. Surely, we can agree that our communities would be safer, and our police would be helped by streamlining this process in removing these security concerns as quickly as possible.
Under the current regime, criminals who are currently serving a sentence of less than two years are eligible to file an appeal to the immigration appeal division. The CPA entirely supports the measures contained within this bill to reduce that time to sentences of less than six months. We also support the new measures that would make it more difficult for criminals,who have been sentenced outside of Canada to access the immigration appeal division.
These are not my words, but the words of the president of the Canadian Police Association. We are talking about police officers who are in the streets every day, who put their lives on the line to protect and support us, who have real life experience and they support Bill .
Mr. Stamatakis then proceeded to tell us a story, which cannot be repeated enough, of the tragic death of Todd Baylis. Mr. Stamatakis told the story in a way that bears repeating. He said:
On the night of June 16, 1994, Toronto Police Service Constables Todd Baylis and Mike Leone were on foot patrol in a public housing complex on Trethewey Drive in west Toronto when they encountered Jamaican-born Clinton Gayle. Gayle was a 26-year-old veteran drug trafficker who had with him a fully loaded nine millimetre handgun and pockets filled with bags of crack cocaine. Clinton Gayle struck Constable Baylis and attempted to flee the scene. He was caught by the two young Toronto officers and a gun fight erupted. Tragically, Constable Baylis was shot in the head and killed in the line of duty, after only four years' service, leaving behind family, friends, and colleagues who continue to honour his sacrifice.
Unfortunately, this is one of the very real dangers that face our police personnel every day. What makes this case so particularly tragic and why I am here before you today is that this case was entirely preventable, if only the provisions within Bill C-43 were in effect then.
Clinton Gayle had been under a deportation order because of a number of criminal convictions he had on his record for various serious issues such as drugs, weapons, and assault. Despite these convictions, Clinton Gayle had used his time in prison to appeal his deportation order. At the conclusion of his sentence in 1992, he was allowed to go free by an immigration department official after posting a meagre $2,000 bail.
We now know that between 1990 and 1996, the government had made a number of efforts to deport Mr. Gayle, efforts that ultimately proved to be unsuccessful, and that red tape and abuse of the system by a known criminal is what led to the tragic murder of one of our colleagues, Constable Baylis, as well as serious injuries to his partner, Constable Leone.
Todd Baylis' story deserves repeating because it is important that we remember the consequences of having a broken system that puts criminals ahead of victims and law-abiding Canadians, that allows endless appeals for dangerous foreign criminals so they can remain in Canada and use that time to commit more crimes and create more unfortunate victims.
The most important part of Mr. Stamatakis' testimony is that he debunked the ridiculous claim made constantly by the NDP members and Liberals that criminals who has received a sentence of at least six months had not committed crimes that should be considered serious. For example, someone found growing six marijuana plants for the purpose of trafficking is not a serious criminal. This is what the president of the Police Association had to say:
I think that in this country anybody who receives a custodial sentence of six months would have had to commit a serious crime.
As a front line officer, whether you're talking about a criminal act where innocent citizens in our country are being victimized by violence or other activities like that, or about a white-collar crime, where you have people who are losing life savings and having their entire lives destroyed, where there is a custodial sentence of a duration of six months, I think somebody has committed a serious crime, and I think 800 is too many....Drug trafficking is drug trafficking. We've had police officers who've been either seriously injured or killed on duty or in the line of duty by people who aren't even involved in criminal activity at the time.
I could not agree more with the Canadian Police Association.
What is especially telling, though, is that the NDP members did not ask the representative from the Police Association a single question, not a single one.
Here is a respected senior member of the police force whose organization represents over 50,000 front-line enforcement personnel from across Canada, serving in over 160 difference police services, including police officers from federal, provincial, municipal and first nations police organizations, with probably more expertise on the bill and the issues surrounding it than any other stakeholder the committee hears, yet the NDP members did not ask a single question.
It shows yet again that unfortunately the NDP will not listen to Canadians, will not listen to the experts and will continue to put the rights of criminals ahead of victims and of law abiding Canadians.
I urge the NDP members and the Liberals today to listen to organizations like the Canadian Police Association and stop using amendments to try to prevent the bill from becoming law. I implore the opposition to work with our Conservative government to ensure the speedy passage of the bill.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak again on Bill .
Sitting on the Standing Committee of Citizenship and Immigration is certainly a privilege and responsibility that I take very seriously. Immigration issues are the number one issue that constituents in the fantastic riding of Scarborough—Rouge River come to me my office about when looking for assistance and support. They are concerned with the direction of Canada's immigration policy as well as the priorities of the government when it comes to immigration.
The citizenship application process in this country can take over three years. Some families are waiting four years or more to be reunited with their loved ones and visitor visas continue to be denied without a reasonable explanation. The residents of Scarborough—Rouge River are looking for action from the government on these problems.
Since the vast majority of newcomers to Canada are actually law-abiding people who want to build a better life for themselves and their families, the Conservatives should be making a greater effort to ensure that they are treated fairly, have the resources they need and can be reunited with their families.
It is clear to me that it is the New Democrats who stand with newcomers and who want the government to focus on making the immigration system faster and fairer for the vast majority of people who do not commit crimes and who follow the rules.That is what my constituents are asking for.
During the study of Bill , committee members were able to hear hours of expert testimony. We all agree that non-citizens who commit serious crimes in Canada should be dealt with quickly. However, the NDP, along with many of the witnesses who came to speak on the bill, had some serious concerns with what the government was proposing. Lawyers, front-line service workers and policy experts all had a lot to say about the bill. It is disappointing that their concerns are not reflected in the bill now back before the House. New Democrats wanted to work across party lines to ensure the speedy removal of serious non-citizen criminals. Disappointingly, the Conservatives did not want to work with us to make this legislation better.
A particular concern of ours is the extraordinary discretionary powers given to the minister in this bill without any checks and balances. Bill concentrates more power in the hands of the minister by giving him or her a new discretionary authority over the admissibility of temporary residents. The minister can declare a foreign national inadmissible for up to 36 months “if the Minister is of the opinion that it is justified by public policy considerations”. The minister may also at any time revoke or shorten the effective period of a declaration of inadmissibility—but public policy considerations are never spelled out for us or defined. Bill relieves the minister of the responsibility to examine humanitarian concerns. It also gives the minister a new discretionary authority to provide an exception for a family member of a foreign national who is inadmissible.
It was extremely disappointing that the Conservatives rejected the reasonable NDP amendments that addressed this chief concern and would limit the excessive new power the bill gives to the minister. The NDP moved an amendment that would have enshrined the minister's own proposed guidelines, word for word, on negative ministerial discretion into Bill . Even that was rejected, despite the fact the himself suggested to the committee that we look at such an approach.
Another concern of witnesses and the NDP with the bill was the loss of the right of appeal. Previously, a conviction in Canada resulting in a prison sentence of two years or more constituted an automatic revocation of a permanent or temporary resident's right of appeal at the Immigration Appeal Division of the IRB. Bill would revoke the right to appeal a determination of inadmissibility where there is a conviction of six months or more. The bill would remove any discretion of a judge to consider the nature of the crime and the context in which it was committed, including potential mental illness in refugees from war-torn countries.
We need to have a fair, transparent and impartial process to review removals and take into consideration individual circumstances. We do not support closing the door to an appeal process, as it is an essential component of checks and balances in our immigration system.
In addition, we heard from numerous witnesses who argued that this bill casts too wide a net. As one expert argued:
The vast scope of the inadmissibility provisions, combined with the dismantling of the only available legal safeguards, will result in the removal from Canada and exposure to persecution of clearly innocent people....
We were also warned that the bill would have a serious impact on the young and people with mental health issues. In committee the New Democrats introduced nine reasonable amendments to this bill, taking into account the concerns of the experts who testified, in order to curb the excessive powers of the minister and to restore some due process. Yet these were all rejected by the Conservative majority on committee.
We support the principle of removing dangerous, violent non-citizen criminals in a timely manner, which is why we introduced reasonable, moderate amendments that would have made the legislation fairer. Unfortunately, once again, these were rejected by the Conservatives on the committee.
New Democrats want to prevent non-citizens who commit serious crimes from abusing our appeals process, but to do so without trampling the rights of the innocent. I would add that rather than tabling legislation that portrays newcomers negatively, the government should focus on giving border and law enforcement officials the proper resources they need to keep Canadians safe from criminals of all backgrounds. We need to stop criminals and terrorists before they arrive in Canada. However, the Conservatives' cuts will mean that Canadian officials will have to do the best they can with less.
The 2012 budget plan announced cuts of $143 million to the Canada Border Services Agency. These reckless cuts are certainly going to have an impact on the safety and efficiency of our borders. Members know, from the customs and immigration unit, that 325 jobs on the front line at border crossings across the country will be cut. The intelligence branch of the CBSA has been hard hit, losing 100 positions, and 19 sniffer dog units are being slashed due to the budget cuts.
In addition, the government needs to address the lack of training, resources, and integration of information and monitoring technologies within the responsible public service agencies. These are not my own recommendations, but have been repeated by the Auditor General for years.
We should focus on making improvements to the current system and administration of laws currently in place, including proper training, service standards, quality assurances, and checks to improve our Canadian border security and public safety.
Members have just returned from their constituencies. I always enjoy speaking with constituents and sharing in community events throughout Scarborough, a great and dynamic community. However, community safety and well-being are on the minds of constituents. The constituents of Scarborough are looking for leadership on these issues, including support and prevention strategies to keep our communities safe. Instead we are being subject to a huge, $687.9 million cut to public safety by 2015, the bulk of which will fall on the Canada Border Services Agency, at $143 million; the Correctional Service Canada, at $295.4 million; and the RCMP, at $195.2 million.
Proper training and resources are certainly ways to increase border security and public safety. The government needs to stop criminals and terrorists before they arrive in Canada. However, thanks to Conservative cuts, Canadian officials have to try to do the best they can with less and less.
The government needs to start listening to Canadians. It needs to listen to newcomers, who have repeatedly said they want a faster and fairer immigration system, not a process that may be beyond recognition once the government is finished with it, given the current direction the immigration minister and the Conservatives are taking immigration policy in this country.
In this bill alone there is a system that concentrates power in the hands of the minister and removes appropriate checks and balances; negatively portrays newcomers; calls permanent residents foreigners when in reality they are residents of our communities who work, pay taxes and raise their families here in our country and communities; and relieves the minister from taking into account humanitarian and compassionate considerations.
New Democrats had hoped to be able to work together to prevent non-citizens who commit serious crimes from abusing our appeals process, without trampling on people's rights but upholding our Canadian values. Regrettably, this was rejected by the government. That is why we cannot support this bill.
Mr. Speaker, the minister referenced a number of abuses of the immigration system, how the deportation process has been abused and the need, with which we concur, to improve the immigration system to ensure that serious criminals should not enjoy sanctuary in Canada and to provide necessary security for Canadians. All these are matters in which the House can concur.
However, Bill purports to address serious foreign criminality, which in fact is the aim of the parent bill, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. However, some of the provisions of Bill C-43 continue to remain troubling and some, in fact, may well contravene the charter. My colleague from has suggested amendments, which I trust will enjoy support from all in this place.
My remarks this morning will first address some of the specific concerns with Bill , including charter concerns. Second, and not unrelated, I will raise the question of why no report of charter inconsistency has yet been tabled by the , pursuant to the exigencies of section 4.1 of the Department of Justice Act.
Before turning to these considerations there are two troubling situations from last year that warrant mention at the outset. In both cases a young permanent Canadian resident was deported to a war-torn, impoverished country. As these two young men were alone and unable to speak the local language, they were susceptible to the many criminal terrorist organizations in that country, Somalia, that prey on vulnerable youth. Indeed, in one of the cases the United Nations Human Rights Committee found that Canada jeopardized the right to life of the young man in question and was therefore in violation of its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
These two young permanent residents of Canada, Saeed Jama and Jama Warsame, though they had been here since childhood, had indeed committed offences, mostly drug related, and as such deportation proceedings were initiated against them following their convictions. That is as it should be. When non-citizens commit crimes in Canada deportation is a reasonable option. However, I offer the case of Mr. Jama and Mr. Warsame to illustrate the perspective nuances and complicating factors that might arise in deportation cases and to underline the importance of due process and the right to appeal deportation orders, not only in matters of the criminal processes the minister has rightly mentioned and referenced but notably on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.
As we seek, quite rightly, to streamline our immigration and deportation processes it is critical to ensure that humanitarian and compassionate considerations, as well as charter rights to security of the person and fundamentals of due process are not marginalized in the name of short-run expediency. Regrettably, the effect of the bill before us does precisely that. First, it reduces the threshold at which a conviction results in automatic deportation with no possibility of appeal from a sentence of two years to a sentence of six months.
The has defended this change by arguing that judges have been issuing sentences of two years less a day in order to circumvent the statute. In fact, judges issue such sentences because two years is the dividing line between federal and provincial incarceration. Canadian citizens regularly receive sentences of two years less a day, thus demonstrating that immigration status is patently not the reason for such sentencing.
Furthermore, if the government is so concerned about sentences of two years less a day, why is it no less concerned about sentences of six months less a day? The standard should not be any arbitrary number of months but rather the qualitative seriousness of the offence. This brings me to the point that has been noted in prior debate on the bill. Many of the offences that result in six month sentences in no way justify automatic deportation with no possibility of appeal.
Bill would establish a situation where a person could be brought here as an infant, be raised here, be as much a Canadian as the rest of us and then be automatically expelled without due process for making a recording in a movie theatre or, since the coming into force of Bill , for possessing six marijuana plants. At a time when the government is intent on ushering in new and longer mandatory minimum sentences with respect to new offences, it can hardly be said about the Canadian justice system that there is necessarily a correlation between the length of a sentence and the seriousness, let alone the serious criminality, of the offence.
In particular, if the Conservatives wish to evince a genuine desire to rid Canada of serious criminals to ensure that these criminals would be brought to justice pursuant to our international obligations in this regard as well, why do they not commit adequate resources to the war crimes program to prosecute war criminals in Canada, as I have repeatedly urged them to do? Indeed, the remedy of deporting a war criminal may result either in a serious war criminal not being held accountable for justice violations at all, or in the reverse, being sent to a country where there is a substantial risk of torture or other cruel or degrading punishment. In either case, what we need at this point is an enhanced war crimes program so that we can deal with the serious war criminals in this country for whom the deportation remedy is not a remedy at all.
A second problem with the legislation is that it would allow the to deny temporary resident status for up to three years on the basis, as has been mentioned, of undefined public policy considerations. Even given the requirement that was added at committee, that the government produce an annual report listing and justifying such denials, this change would still carve out a sphere of unaccountable ministerial discretion and could lead to the further politicization of our immigration system. As a matter of fundamental fairness, people affected by government decisions should be informed of the reasons leading up to those decisions and allowed to present evidence in their favour. Bill would deny them that right. The legislation would also prohibit the minister from considering humanitarian and compassionate concerns in certain cases, which could also violate a number of Canada's international obligations.
In fact, several elements of the bill may contravene not only international agreements but our own Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The automatic deportation of individuals to situations of torture, terror and grave danger raises serious concerns with respect to section 7, the right to life, liberty and security of the person. As well, by denying the right to appeal the deportation orders and by empowering the minister to deny entry on arguably arbitrary and ill-defined grounds, the bill may violate the principles of fundamental justice.
These inconsistencies with the charter brush up against section 4.1 of the Department of Justice Act. Here, the must, as stated in the act:
—examine...every Bill introduced in or presented to the House of Commons by a minister of the Crown, in order to ascertain whether any of the provisions thereof are inconsistent with the purposes and provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Minister shall report any such inconsistency to the House of Commons at the first convenient opportunity.
Yet, the has tabled no such report on any bill or on this bill. This is not the first time that he has failed to do so when the government has introduced legislation that poses constitutional concerns. When I raised this issue at the justice committee hearings on Bill as well as in the House, the minister avoided the question. Indeed, a justice department employee is suing the government because he claims that he was suspended for raising this issue in court. I am not suggesting that the minister is deliberately violating the Department of Justice Act, but I await the minister's explanation of why he has apparently not been acting in accordance with it with respect to a number of bills, particularly if one takes the omnibus set of bills such as Bill with arguably constitutionally suspect provisions, as well as the one before us today in the so-called faster removal of foreign criminals act.
The title of the legislation is sufficiently disconcerting that I cannot close without addressing it. Many of these so-called foreign criminals referred to in Bill are long-time Canadian residents. To put that title on the bill is to pejoratively and prejudicially mischaracterize them at the outset and does harm to all our constituents.
Mr. Speaker, I am glad to take part in this debate concerning the government's Bill also known as the faster removal of foreign criminals act.
I speak not only as a member of the immigration committee but also as the representative of a riding where people take great stock in and put great importance on the integrity of our immigration system.
Before I explain why I genuinely believe in the necessity of this legislation and consequently strongly oppose the amendments that have been put forward by the opposition in order to delay and gut the bill, I would like to relate to the House a story about a woman named Irene Thorpe.
Ms. Thorpe was a mother of two. Although I did not know her personally, she was also a daughter and a friend to many. She was actually described in a newspaper as having “a life apparently brimming with goodness”. On a very sad day in November 2000, she was killed.
Ms. Thorpe was killed while crossing the street. It happened too fast for her to see the car coming. She was killed by a man who was street racing, one of the most mind-numbingly irresponsible and reckless things someone can do in a car. The man behind the wheel was Singh Khosa. He was racing at about 140 kilometres per hour.
Ms. Thorpe and her dog were crossing a street where the posted maximum speed was 50. Singh Khosa's case was widely reported by news media over many years. He had been granted permanent resident status when he arrived in Canada as a teenager in 1996. What he did was beyond a mistake. It was careless. It was dangerous. It killed someone.
Irene Thorpe was a victim, and her family members were also victims. They will never be the same. Her children are growing up without their mother. What makes her story even more tragic is that her death was so easily avoidable. In 2002, after two years of court proceedings, Mr. Khosa was finally convicted of criminal negligence causing death. He was given a conditional sentence of two years less a day. That sentence, two years less a day, is worth noting, and I will describe why that is the case.
Based on his conviction, reckless and dangerous foreign criminal Singh Khosa was found to be inadmissible to Canada and was ordered deported in April 2003, but it took six years to clear all the roadblocks to remove him from the country. Why did it take so long?
It comes back to that sentence of two years less a day. Under our current system, a permanent resident who receives a sentence greater than six months but less than two years is subject to removal but still can appeal that removal to the Immigration Appeal Division of the Immigration and Refugee Board. It is worth noting that in cases like that of Mr. Khosa, two years less a day is a common sentence.
Not surprisingly, Singh Khosa took full advantage of his access to the appeals process. His appeal before the Immigration Appeal Division, and subsequent related hearings before various courts enabled him to delay his deportation for the better part of seven years.
Irene Thorpe was killed in a matter of seconds. We all know how her family felt about a seven-year appeal process to finally deport the person responsible, who was convicted beyond a reasonable doubt in the criminal courts.
As members of this House, we must keep the safety of Canadians at the forefront of our decisions and take action to repair a system that allows foreign criminals to delay their removal from this country for years and years. We must put the interests of victims and of law-abiding Canadians ahead of the interests of criminals.
Fortunately we have a great opportunity to do so by ensuring that the measures in the faster removal of foreign criminals act become the law of our land. There is a number of measures in this bill that would improve the system and create a greater sense of justice and fairness for victims of criminals such as Mr. Khosa.
As a lawyer myself who has stood for the human rights of Canadians in the courts of our land, I still believe we need to keep dangerous foreign criminals from having access to endless appeals to delay their deportation. We need to take them off the streets and out of our country. I sincerely urge my friends in the opposition to stop playing partisan games and to listen to victims organizations, police associations, immigration lawyers and experts and Canadians all across the country who have told us loudly and clearly that they support the faster removal of foreign criminals act.
These are not partisan issues. These are common sense issues. Without a doubt, these tough but fair measures are welcome and long needed. They improve the integrity of the immigration system without compromising its generosity.
Well-known media commentator Lorne Gunter put it well in a recent column when he wrote the following:
If you wish to move here and become a citizen.... Why should Canada have to keep you if you demonstrate your danger to the community during your probationary period?...
It is not mean or hard-hearted to deny them citizenship and punt them from our shores more quickly....
If you want to come to Canada and make a new life, welcome. We love to have you. But if you commit a crime while awaiting citizenship, don't claim to be a victim if we make you leave.
An editorial in The Globe and Mail argued, and I quote:
—it is difficult to argue with the bill's main thrust. The immigration process can be enormously complex, but one principle should be fairly straightforward: The tiny share of immigrants and refugees who lack citizenship and are convicted of serious crimes on Canadian soil forfeit their right to be here.
I emphasize the word “tiny” to my friend across the way who suggested that this was to characterize a large number of people as criminals.
I do not imagine that too many Canadians would disagree with this editorial. In fact, I am sure that most Canadians would be shocked to know how easy it is under existing rules for foreign criminals to avoid removal for years on end.
Canadians are generous and welcoming people, but we have no tolerance for criminals and fraudsters abusing our generosity. Our Conservative government is putting a stop to foreign criminals relying on endless appeals to delay their removal from Canada, during which time they continue to terrorize innocent Canadians.
Once again, I appeal to all of my hon. colleagues in the New Democratic and Liberal parties to stop opposing this bill. Listen to Canadians and help us ensure the speedy passage into law. Today is a day we can stop Canadians from being victimized by dangerous foreign criminals who have avoided deportation and remain in the country due to a system that provides them with endless appeals.
Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise to speak in strong support of the faster removal of foreign criminals act, at report stage and to oppose the irresponsible amendments introduced by the opposition.
Canadians have a long tradition of being welcoming and generous. In fact, our Conservative government has maintained the highest sustained levels of immigration in Canadian history. We have increased the number of refugees we are resettling into Canada by 20%. In order to maintain that tradition, Canadians need to have confidence in our immigration system.
For too long, Canadians have seen countless stories of people who view Canada as a doormat, a light touch, whose immigration system is an easy target for fraudsters and criminals. Understandably, Canadians have had enough. They have made it clear that they want us to restore the integrity of the immigration system. I am pleased to say that our Conservative government is doing just that.
This long overdue bill would make it easier for the government to deport dangerous foreign criminals from our country, make it harder for those who may pose a risk to Canada to enter into the country in the first place, while at the same time remove barriers for genuine visitors who want to come to Canada.
Unfortunately, the opposition has introduced several amendments to try to gut this bill. The opposition members are using these amendments as a partisan tactic to try to delay and prevent passage of this very important piece of legislation. They are playing procedural games, but these games have real consequences to Canada and to Canadians. I will explain the consequences of the games the opposition members are playing by using these amendments to delay passage of the bill.
The bill would ensure the speedy deportation of dangerous foreign criminals. It would ensure that dangerous foreign criminals are taken off of the streets in Canada more quickly and removed from our country. This means that they would no longer be able to commit more crimes in Canada and would no longer be able to victimize more innocent Canadians.
It is shocking to me that there would be anyone who would oppose this legislation, but shamefully, the NDP and Liberals oppose it. The opposition's amendments would delete the entire bill. The NDP and Liberals do not seem to have any problem with these dangerous foreign criminals staying on our streets and living in our communities. I certainly have a problem with that. It shows just how out of touch they are with Canadians in all parts of the country and in all ridings, including mine of Scarborough Centre, who widely support our bill.
Time and time again the NDP and the Liberals put the interests of criminals ahead of the rights of victims and hard-working, law-abiding Canadians. Our Conservative government is the only party in the House that truly cares about victims, that cares about innocent law-abiding Canadians. We are the only party that is cracking down on crime. We introduced the fast removal of foreign criminals act because we know that Canadian families care about safety and security.
Unfortunately, the NDP and Liberals do not share the same concern and are proving that yet again by shamefully voting against the bill and trying to prevent it from becoming law. The NDP and Liberals are not just ignoring Canadians who overwhelmingly support the bill; what is worse, they are ignoring the support the bill has received from stakeholders and experts. They are ignoring the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, which stated that it:
--supports the efforts of the Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act to provide for a more expeditious removal from Canada of foreigners who are convicted of committing serious crimes against Canadians. As well, we support measures to prevent those with a history of committing criminal offences, or who pose a risk to our society, from entering Canada. The Act will help to make Canadians and those who legitimately enter Canada safer.
The opposition is also ignoring the Canadian Police Association, which stated that it:
--welcomes the introduction of the Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act, particularly with respect to the enhanced prohibitions against those who have committed serious crimes abroad from coming to Canada.
While the overwhelming majority of those who come to Canada make a tremendous contribution to our shared communities, there does remain a [number] who flout Canadian law and have taken advantage of drawn-out proceedings to remain in the country at a risk to public safety. This legislation will help us by streamlining the procedures necessary to remove individuals who remain at-risk to re-offend.
Ensuring that public safety is one of the considerations with respect to admissibility to Canada is a clear step in the right direction.
The New Democrats and Liberals like to use hypothetical examples and situations during debate, but the fact is that the consequences of this bill not becoming law would be very real. They would be the most real to the unfortunate victims of these dangerous foreign criminals.
Let us take the very real example of Babak Najafi-Chaghabouri. As per recent media reports, this criminal was charged with several crimes, including aggravated assault. He received a prison sentence of 18 months which under the current system allowed him to appeal his deportation to the immigration appeal division which granted him a stay of his removal and allowed him to remain in Canada. Subsequently and sadly, he murdered Ronak Wagad. In fact, he used a hatchet to chop the back of Mr. Wagad's head five times.
An hon. member: Disgusting.
The B.C. Supreme Court justice who sentenced this criminal described the murder as horrendous.
These are the criminals the New Democrats and the Liberals want to keep in Canada. These are the very real consequences of providing endless appeals to dangerous foreign criminals. Mr. Wagad's family knows these consequences all too well and will not forget them for the rest of their lives.
We know that the list of real examples is a long one. There are countless unfortunate examples. It is very difficult for me to understand how the New Democrats and Liberals can oppose this bill, but what is worse is that they are using procedural games through irresponsible amendments to try to delay and prevent its passage. The criteria to maintain permanent residency are very simple. People have to live in Canada; they have to obey the law. The vast majority of permanent residents have no trouble doing this. In fact, the vast majority of citizens have no problem meeting these criteria either. However, if people do break the law, there are consequences, even if the New Democrats and Liberals would prefer there not to be.
Our Conservative government is putting a stop to foreign criminals relying on endless appeals in order to delay their removal from Canada, during which time they continue to terrorize innocent Canadians. Canadians are generous and welcoming people, but they have no tolerance for criminals and fraudsters who abuse their generosity. The measures included in the faster removal of foreign criminals act are tough but they are fair. They are necessary, and quite frankly, long overdue. We want an immigration system that is open to genuine visitors while at the same time prevents the entry of foreign criminals and denies them the ability to endlessly abuse that generosity.
I urge the New Democrats and the Liberals to stop trying to prevent passage of this bill, to help us ensure its speedy passage and work with our government to help protect the safety and security of Canadian families.
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise in the House and speak on behalf of my constituents in the riding of Davenport, in the great city of Toronto. This issue is one of grave concern to many people in Toronto. It is an issue that strikes at the core of families in our cities.
There seems to be some confusion on the other side that somehow we on this side are not in favour of a system that really deals with violent criminals who are not Canadian citizens. That is just a fabrication. If the Conservatives want to speak about partisan politics, that is partisan politics at its worst because it is a gross mischaracterization.
I want to talk a bit about two stories that are very close to me. These people both come from my riding. I had a call from a very distraught mother whose 14-year-old was violently assaulted, in fact so much so that this young person will need a couple of years to recuperate. Those who were arrested for the crime were not Canadian citizens. The mother was in pieces, as anyone could understand a parent to be. She wanted to know how this could happen to her child on the streets of Toronto, which by the way are generally safe streets.
It brings to mind the fact that if the government is serious about dealing with violent criminals, then how can it justify the cuts that it has made, for example to border services? In the 2012 budget there were cuts of $143 million to the Canadian Border Services Agency.
The bulk of guns, for example, that are used in violent crimes in the city of Toronto are illegal guns, smuggled in from the United States. What does the government do? Instead of protecting Canadian citizens and communities, the child or the mother who phoned me last week, it has cut at the very spot where we actually need more protection and security. We need more thorough checks because it is easy to smuggle in a gun, evidently, because we are awash in them and the government has systematically cut the very agency that we need.
When we talk about Bill , we heard time and time again from stakeholders, who held a variety of opinions on this issue, that the most important thing was to deal with the system we had and make it more efficient. The government has a lot to answer for to the woman in my riding. This legislation is not the answer. This is cold comfort for my constituent and her child.
This is part of the reason why we on our side rejected this. We presented balanced, prudent, moderate amendments to the bill that would have dealt with the very thing that my constituent called me about, which was a regime that was more efficient in dealing with violent criminals who were not Canadian citizens.
That is one story that came to me over the course of the break.
The other story came earlier. It was from a parent who came into my office extremely concerned because her child had been picked up by the police in what sounded like a random pickup. This was a young person, a racialized youth from an immigrant community and a newcomer to Canada. The family was just getting a foothold in our country. This young person was extremely scared and acted a little inappropriately. These things happen with young people from time to time. Mistakes are made.
The concern that the parent had was that if the son was sent back to the home country, there would be nobody there for him. If he was troubled, he needed the support of his family. I think that is something everyone in this place would agree with, that for young people in trouble one of the biggest issues is family support.
This person came to me with a real concern. It is a concern that our party shares. We are concerned about the broad sweep of the bill. We are concerned about the fact that more and more power is being requested by the minister.
This is a government with ministers who do not have a great record of the kind of behaviour that would make Canadians feel secure and safe in giving them even more power and less accountability and transparency. We have a minister who writes a letter to the CRTC, another minister who has overspent in his election and another who likes to take helicopter joyrides. There is a laundry list of transgressions by ministers on that side.
Now we have legislation, and this is not the first one, where the minister is trying to gather more and more power for himself or his office, with less and less accountability. We have heard from stakeholders who hold a variety of views on this issue. They have raised those concerns and they are legitimate ones.
When we talk about public safety, we have to underscore that the government's actions undermine public safety. They undermine communities' desires to be safe and secure in their communities.
The Conservatives are saying that cuts to border services do not have any impact on front-line services at the border where guns do come across. It is wishful thinking. We know from the Customs and Immigration Union that over 300 jobs on the front line of border crossings will be cut. A lot of them are happening in the GTA. We have a multicultural community and many newcomers.
Let us be clear. The government is speaking as though newcomers to Canada are some kind of troublesome thing for Canadian society. The bulk of newcomers to Canada are peaceful, peace-loving, hard-working, positive additions to the Canadian family. We should be proud of this and we should embrace that fact.
We should be looking for ways to support them, to support their families, to support family reunification and not to pick out a very small important sector of Canadian society that does commit violent crime. We should think more about those families that really need the support so they can get the firm footing in Canadian society that we promise them. That is the most important thing.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to debate Bill . If passed, the faster removal of foreign criminals act will go a long way toward ensuring the safety and security of Canadians, and for that, I wholeheartedly support it.
Unfortunately, the opposition has put forward several amendments that would essentially gut the bill and prevent it from becoming the law. In other words, the NDP and Liberals are trying to prevent us from protecting the safety and security of Canadian families.
Canada's immigration system is rightly regarded to be among the most open and generous in the world. Immigration has always been a sustaining feature of Canada's history, and continues to play an important role in building our country. In fact, our Conservative government has welcomed the highest sustained levels of immigration in Canadian history.
Our immigration system works really well, but it is not perfect. No system is, but with Bill we are taking action to correct one glaring problem afflicting our immigration system.
We see time and time again that foreign criminals who have committed serious crimes on our soil are able to endlessly delay their deportation by using an avenue of appeal that exists under the current law. There are many examples of convicted foreign criminals who have abused our generosity and tested our patience by drawing out their removal process via this avenue. They include fraudsters, drug traffickers, rapists and child abusers, some of the worst people humanity has to offer.
Take the case of Cesar Guzman, who was issued a deportation order after being convicted of sexually assaulting a senior citizen. As Nadia Moharib reported in the Calgary Sun, his victim was an 87-year-old woman at a senior care facility where he was employed. Despite the seriousness of his loathsome and sickening crime, this sexual predator, a man who preyed on and violated one of the most vulnerable members of our society, was sentenced to only 18 months in prison.
To make matters worse, the short length of that sentence allowed this sex offender to appeal his deportation order. This man should have been sent packing back to Peru as soon as he walked out the prison gate after serving his sentence, but because of the avenue of appeal that opened for him, the removal process ended up dragging on for years. Having initially been ordered deported in May 2007, Mr. Guzman was not removed from Canada until April 2011, amounting to nearly four years of delay.
Canadians can be forgiven for seething with rage when they hear the details of this disturbing case. The bottom line is that this man should never have had the opportunity to appeal his deportation in the first place.
Currently, a permanent resident or foreign national may be ordered deported if they could receive a maximum sentence in Canada of at least 10 years for their crime, or if they receive an actual sentence of more than six months.
The problem is that under the current system, as long as their sentence is less than two years, a permanent resident can appeal their deportation order to the Immigration Appeal Division at the Immigration and Refugee Board. If they lose their appeal at the IAD, they may then apply for leave and judicial review of that decision at the Federal Court, and on it can go from there.
As a result, serious foreign criminals are often able to delay deportation from Canada for many months, even years on end. In all this time, while their victims suffer, they are free to walk on the street. What is worse is that many of these convicted criminals have gone on to re-offend while they are in Canada, endangering Canadians and making a mockery of our laws.
With Bill , we want to send a clear message to foreign criminals. If they commit a serious crime in Canada, they will get their day in court, but they will then be sent packing as quickly as possible. Under Bill , any permanent resident who receives a sentence in Canada of six months or more would no longer be able to appeal their deportation to the IAD. Also, those who have committed serious crimes outside Canada will be barred from accessing the Immigration Appeal Division. In addition, those who are inadmissible on the most serious grounds, such as organized crime or war crimes, would no longer have access to a program that is meant for exceptional cases deserving of humanitarian and compassionate grounds.
Yet another key change would give the a new authority to deny entry in exceptional cases to the foreign nationals who give rise to public concern, such as individuals who encourage or incite hatred likely to lead to violence. This would close a loophole in our current system whereby certain foreigners who are not admissible to Canada are admissible even though they might represent a risk to us. Those foreigners may, for example, have a long track record of promoting hatred and inciting violence against vulnerable groups.
Individuals with immediate family members who are inadmissible on grounds of security, human or international rights violations, or organized criminality would also be barred from visiting Canada under Bill , even if they are travelling alone. That being said, we would facilitate the visits of those individuals with immediate family members who are inadmissible on less serious grounds, such as health.
The government is committed to the safety and security of Canadians and Bill is a strong expression of that commitment. Indeed, the proposed changes in this legislation would increase our ability to protect Canadians from criminals and security threats, including newcomers who have come here to find peace and build a new life. At the same time, we would also strengthen our immigration program and facilitate entry for some low-risk visitors. These tough but fair measures would ensure that foreign criminals are not allowed to abuse our generosity endlessly.
I hope that my hon. colleagues in the NDP and Liberal parties will stop opposing this bill and join us in supporting Bill and help make these measures a reality.
Mr. Speaker, Bill is problematic. In fact, the title is the only thing that makes any sense and the only thing we all agree on. The thing that offends me the most is that the Conservatives are accusing us of trying to protect criminals and stonewalling the bill. Clearly, it will be impossible to have any kind of reasonable, intelligent debate as long as the other side of the House continues to use abusive language and give such extreme examples. They describe all kinds of horrible things for weeks, but that will do absolutely nothing to advance the debate.
I occasionally meet people in my riding who came to Canada as immigrants or refugees. They tell me that what bothers and offends them the most is to see powerful people, people with tremendous resources, who manage to beat the system and come to Canada with certain privileges. Those people are the hardest to deport in many cases. The sluggishness and inefficiency of the whole immigration system really bothers many of these people when they want to bring the rest of their family to Canada.
It makes me laugh to hear the Liberals and Conservatives argue about this, since the system's inefficiencies go back about 100 years. Both parties have been equally incompetent ever since the system was first created.
When the Conservatives decide to fix something, they always take aim at whatever is not broken. For example, although there are problems with border security and delays in processing immigration files, they find it easier to attack a very small number of people with unpronounceable surnames. They ask them to talk about all the horrible and repugnant things they have done in order to maintain a sort of fear in society. That is what they do. They put all their energy into that, instead of thinking about the issue and having an intelligent discussion with people who, like us, are actually trying to protect citizens from a minority of people with bad intentions who really represent a threat to our society.
The Conservatives are repeating all the mistakes made by Australia. This is nothing new and it is not insignificant. Canada's treatment of aboriginal peoples is based on the Australian model, which turned out to be horrible. Australians apologized and continue to work on fixing the damage they caused. More recently, they reformed their immigration system and made terrible mistakes, which they are now correcting.
Now we are implementing their model. I do not understand where the Conservatives look for their ideas. That is the danger with all extreme positions. There is no room for reflection in extremism. They only know how to be derisive instead of thinking things through. In the long run, they will destroy our country and its reputation. This is going nowhere.
The Conservatives accuse us of not wanting to collaborate or make constructive comments. However, every time they open their mouths, they accuse us of being criminals.