moved that Bill , be read the third time and passed.
He said: Mr. Speaker, thank you very much for giving me one last opportunity to talk about Bill , an important bill that will enable us to keep our communities safer.
This bill was part of the Conservative Party's election platform during the most recent election. It will improve our immigration system by speeding up removal of foreign criminals.
I have already had a chance to summarize the essence, the key features of this bill. However, during recent debates in the House, some MPs have raised some concerns about the bill and have criticized it. I would like to use my 20 minutes to respond to all of those concerns and criticisms.
Rather than reviewing the bill in the way I did at second reading and at report stage, I think it would be more profitable for the House if I respond to individual criticisms made by members in the debate, particularly at report stage in the House.
First, I will go through the points that I have heard raised in no particular order. One of the criticisms suggested that the bill will divide families, causing emotional and financial damage, especially for children whose parents would be removed from the country as a result of the bill.
I remind members that under the current provisions of the Immigration Act, a foreign national who is given a custodial sentence by a Canadian criminal court of six months or longer is criminally inadmissible to Canada and a deportation order is issued for them. They have lost the right, the privilege, of living in Canada by virtue of their serious criminal activity and the finding of a Canadian court in that respect. That was not a decision made by the government, by law-abiding citizens or by the . The decision to commit a serious criminal act is the decision of the criminal, who must be held responsible for his act.
When Canada has opened the doors of generosity and opportunity to a foreign national, essentially all we ask to maintain that privilege in perpetuity is that they live in Canada for two out of five years as a permanent resident or become a citizen or simply do not commit a serious criminal act. To suggest that the government would somehow be responsible for “dividing family members” if a serious foreign criminal is removed is perverse. The decision to become inadmissible, to be deported, is a decision the criminal has taken by virtue of his act, a decision that has been confirmed following due process by a Canadian court of law.
Should that permanent resident being removed following deportation have family members in Canada, they are not required to stay here. They are welcome to go back to their country. The notion that Canada is dividing a family is absurd. There is a certain, I would call it, soft bigotry implicit in the attitude that people can only stay in Canada and they cannot go back to any other country in the world with their family members. How condescending to suggest that people cannot pursue fulfilling lives in other countries around the world. I reject that categorically. I say that if people commit serious crimes, they have lost the privilege of staying in Canada as a permanent resident.
Second, we hear from members of the opposition, and this is one of the more hysterical arguments from the member for , that the government is somehow characterizing hundreds of thousands of permanent residents as criminals with the bill, when the exact inverse is true. The vast majority of immigrants whom we welcome as permanent residents are law-abiding people, who would never dream of committing a serious crime and who expect that those who do should lose the privilege of staying in Canada.
As a government, every year on average we admit 257,000 permanent residents. It is the highest sustained level of immigration in Canadian history and the highest per capita levels of immigration in the developed world, adding almost 0.8% to our population per year. That is 260,000 permanent residents.
However, over the past five years we see on average about 800 permanent residents per year who commit serious violent crimes that carry penal sentences of six months or more. In 2010, it was 849; in 2009, 1,086; in 2011, 564. It is about 800 on average. That is a tiny fraction of a per cent of the number of permanent residents in Canada. At any given time we have about 700,000 to 800,000 permanent residents, so about one-tenth of a per cent actually commit serious crimes. Therefore, to suggest that the bill has a general application to all or most permanent residents is perverse. To the contrary, it focuses only on the tiny minority who commit serious crimes.
Let me then follow up on the argument of the opposition that the bar for the accelerated removal of foreign criminals is too low. I am told by the member for that if a teenager is caught growing six marijuana plants he or she would be removed from Canada. That is ridiculous. The relevant criminal offence is possession of narcotics with the intention of trafficking. The member also gave the bizarre hypothetical scenario that a foreign teenager travelling to the United States and acquiring illegal ID to buy a drink at a bar when he or she is under age would somehow be deported from Canada.
I will say this. I was an opposition critic and I know it is difficult. There is a lot of legislation and it is often complex material. However, I at least made an effort to familiarize myself with the bills that I was responsible for debating. I would read the bill and the relevant research notes. I would commend that practice to the member for . He might find his interventions in the debate taken somewhat more seriously if he actually bothered to read the legislation, because section 24 of states:
For the purpose of subsection (1), serious criminality must be with respect to a crime that was punished in Canada by a term of imprisonment of at least six months or that is described in paragraph 36....
It states “punished in Canada”. Being arrested for a misdemeanour in the United States, such as buying alcohol under age as a minor, is not being punished in Canada and it is certainly not punishable in Canada by a term of six months or more.
I do not know why the member and the Liberal Party in particular keep diminishing the severity of the crimes that would be affected by the six-month bar in Bill , which by the way already exists in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act as the benchmark for serious criminality leading to a deportation order. In 2010-11, custodial sentences were imposed in about one-third of guilty adult criminal court cases completed, similar to the proportion seen over the past decade. In 2010-11, the majority, 86%, of all sentences to custody were relatively short, at six months or less. Only about 10% of custodial sentences were sentenced to a period of six months to two years less a day, and 4% received a sentence of two or more years.
The crimes that would be affected by the bill by removing the IAD appeal, which is used as a delay tactic for deportation, would be those sentenced to six months or two years less a day, that is, 10% of custodial sentences. Again, only 33% of criminal convictions lead to a custodial sentence. We are talking about 10% of the most serious crimes committed in Canada. In fact, it is even less than that. It is the 10% of those that get custodial sentences, so we are talking about the most serious crimes.
The opposition keeps trying to pretend that the benchmark is low, but in fact in the real criminal justice world, the sorts of crimes that are committed by foreign nationals that we are seeking to address in the bill include: assault with a weapon, carrying a sentence of 13 months in jail in one case, two years less a day in another; the possession of a schedule 1 substance for the purposes of trafficking, two years less a day; sexual assault, 18 months in jail in one case; break and enter, including possession of tools for breaking and entering and theft, 13 months; robbery, 18 months in jail; multiple counts of forgery, et cetera.
We are talking about serious crimes and I have repeatedly referenced the cases of Vietnamese gangster, Jackie Tran; the Guyanese criminal, Patrick De Florimonte; the Romanian fraudster responsible for forgery and conspiracy to commit fraud, Gheorghe Capra; Cesar Guzman from Peru, who sexually assaulted a senior citizen. The Liberals would allow that man to still access an IAD appeal and delay his removal by four years. Then there is the case of the assault with a weapon, drug possession, drug trafficking and failure to comply with court orders of Jeyachandran Balasubramaniam, who managed to delay his deportation for seven years.
Canadians do not think that is acceptable. To the Liberals, sexually assaulting a senior apparently is not a serious crime. That is explicitly their position on the bill, that it is not a serious crime and that a foreign national who has raped a senior citizen should be able to delay his deportation. We respectfully disagree. We suggest that the moment the penal sentence is done, in this case that of Mr. Guzman, the person should be taken in a paddy wagon from prison to the plane and removed from Canada because they have lost the right to be here.
The opposition also says that the bill strips due process away from the accused. Again, that could only be said by people who have not read the bill. The people affected by losing the IAD appeal in the bill have already received all of the natural justice and due process available in the Canadian criminal justice system, fully compliant with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. They have an appeal right. They can appeal their criminal conviction. They can appeal their penal sentence. All we are saying is that once Canada's fair criminal justice system has decided they are a serious criminal, they should not be able to appeal their deportation order because they have abused the privilege of staying in Canada.
The member for keeps suggesting that one case we raised, that of Clinton Gayle, is not relevant to the bill. Clinton Gayle was a Jamaican criminal, a repeat criminal, who, after years of avoiding deportation, murdered Toronto police constable Todd Baylis and shot another police officer.
Let me be clear: On November 6, 1989, Clinton Gayle was convicted of the offence of possession of a narcotic for the purpose of trafficking. He was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of two years less one day. Those are the kinds of sentences that have led to the IAD appeals. Often courts have given sentences of two years less a day specifically to give access to IAD appeals. Indeed, Mr. Gayle used that loophole and on March 1, 1991, the deportation order was filed against him and on that same day he filed an appeal against the decision. It took 16 months, until June 29, 1992, for the Immigration Appeal Division of the IRB to dismiss the appeal of his deportation order.
It is true that after 1992, through incompetence on the part of law enforcement agencies, he was not removed. He ought to have been removed. However, here is the point. If Bill had been in place back in 1991-1992, the paddy wagon would have gone to the prison on the last day of Mr. Gayle's custodial sentence, put him in the back and taken him to Lester B. Pearson Airport and put him on a plane back to Jamaica. He would never have been allowed to get out on our streets in the first place and Todd Baylis would be alive today.
Yes, he ought to have been removed in 1992, but he never should have been able to delay his deportation in the first place. That is the point. That is why the Canadian Association of Police supports Bill . It is why the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police endorses the faster removal of foreign criminals act.
It is also why victim advocacy groups support this bill.
Here is a lovely one from the opposition. We heard them quote Amnesty International and the Canadian Bar Association expressing concern that the bill would no longer allow access to applications for permanent residency on humanitarian and compassionate grounds for people who have been found to be involved in war crimes, crimes against humanity, serious human rights violations and organized criminality.
We are so generous, some would say generous to a fault, in our country that even many of these people have had access to our asylum system and that all of them benefit from what is called a pre-removal risk assessment prior to being removed. Everyone, even the most objectionable terrorists and organized criminals, gets some form of independent legal assessment on whether or not they would face risk if returned to the country of their nationality. That is how we discharge our responsibility under the convention against torture, the 1951 refugee convention and, indeed, the Charter of Rights.
We have an obligation not to remove foreigners whose safety could be at risk if they are deported.
We have a process for this. However, the humanitarian and compassionate process is in addition to the pre-removal risk assessment and in addition to the asylum process.
Only the NDP and Liberals could suggest that a member of the mafia, that someone involved in serious human rights violations should have special consideration on humanitarian grounds.
Consider Léon Mugesera, a Rwandan national responsible for genocide in his country. According to our legal system and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, Mr. Mugesera was one of the people responsible for inciting the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Rwandan civilians 20 years ago. It took us 21 years to deport Léon Mugesera.
I believe that one of the reasons for the delay is that he applied for permanent residence on humanitarian grounds twice. Léon Mugesera showed no humanitarian compassion toward victims of the Rwandan genocide. In my opinion, Canada is in no way obliged to provide special consideration on humanitarian grounds to a person who has committed genocide.
Quite frankly, I encourage the opposition parties to reconsider their foolhardy opposition to the bill, because if they do not, I look forward to letting Canadians know at the next election about the position they have taken.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise again to take part in this important debate.
As I mentioned at report stage, the New Democrats wanted to work across party lines to ensure the speedy removal of serious non-citizen criminals. To that end, I introduced nine reasonable amendments to the bill at committee to curb the excessive powers of the minister and restore some due process. However, they were all rejected by the Conservative majority.
I will give some examples because it would be instructive for the House to hear exactly what we dealt with.
With one amendment in particular, we proposed to do two very different things to limit the overly broad ministerial power to declare a foreign national inadmissible based on public policy considerations.
First, we suggested taking the minister's own guidelines, which he presented to the immigration committee, and codify them in the legislation word for word. When the visited us on October 24, he even suggested this approach when he said, “the committee may recommend that we codify these guidelines in the bill”.
Second, and perhaps more important, the amendment introduced a new threshold for the exercise of this power. Specifically, the minister must have reason to believe that a foreign national would meet one of the listed requirements in the guidelines. Despite the minister suggesting this course of action, his Conservative MPs voted it down. We can see that they are not interested in working together to get a better result.
We also proposed as number of reasonable amendments to restore the ability of the to consider humanitarian and compassionate grounds. By rejecting these amendments, the best interests of children implicated in these cases will no longer be considered.
In its brief to the immigration committee, Amnesty International put its concerns this way:
Eliminating the possibility of humanitarian relief for these types of people runs afoul of international law. Denying individuals access to this process might result in them being sent to torture...or persecution.
The Canadian Council for Refugees pointed out that:
These inadmissibility sections...are extremely broad and catch people who have neither been charged with, nor convicted of, any crime, and who represent no security threat or danger to the public.
It is also worth pointing out that the TCRI, which represents 142 community organizations in Quebec that assist immigrants and refugees, submitted that:
—this complete exclusion of H and C considerations in these contexts is contrary to Canada's international obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which among other things provides protection of family rights and security of the person....it also violates Canada's obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child...
While we may agree that dangerous violent criminals should be removed from Canada as quickly as possible, we had hoped the Conservatives would also recognize that it was important to ensure the minister could still consider the protection of children in these cases. The amendments we moved would have helped dull one of the sharper and more mean-spirited edges of the bill.
The committee studying the bill heard a number of concerns about provisions in the bill that increased the penalty for inadmissibility for misrepresentation from two years to five years and precluded a foreign national from applying for permanent residency status in that period. In fact, many witnesses said that five years was overly punitive, especially when misrepresentation was made by inadvertent error.
In its submission, the Canadian Council for Refugees pointed out that a five-year inadmissibility was excessively harsh in cases of minor infractions when a person was acting under some form of duress. It offered two of many examples where this would be an unfair punishment: first, a woman who did not declare a husband or child because of social and family pressures, and sometimes fear; and second, an applicant who was not personally responsible for the misrepresentation because of an unscrupulous agent or even family member filling out the form for them.
It is the second case I find particularly troubling. I believe that we must make sure to punish those who are criminally misrepresenting themselves, not the victims of shady consultants.
While the CCR recommended that we simply delete this clause, once again, being the NDP, we proposed a moderate alternative. Our amendment created an exception for permanent residents and foreign nationals who are inadmissible for misrepresentation that is demonstrably unintentional. We thought that struck the right balance. Yet once again, there was no movement from the other side on this very reasonable change.
Much has been said in this House about the section in Bill that redefines serious criminality as a crime punishable by a term of imprisonment of at least six months, which has the effect of precluding access to an appeal. I want to make it very clear to my colleagues across the way that our major concern with these provisions is that they limit due process for permanent Canadian residents, many of whom have been here their whole lives and know nothing about the culture or language of the country to which they would be deported.
With all of this in mind, I moved an amendment at committee stage to mitigate some of the worst effects of this clause. The amendment did two things, which I will address separately.
First, I made a modest proposal that we exempt conditional sentences from the terms of imprisonment, thereby ensuring that convictions that are not as serious as more egregious crimes, as is the case with conditional sentencing, are not caught by the provision. This was a suggestion made by the Canadian Bar Association and others during their testimony to the immigration committee.
In fact, the national president of the Canadian Somali Congress told the committee that we should definitely make an exception for a conditional sentence versus jail. In its current form, the bill does not do that. There could be a situation where a permanent resident, facing jail time, may be sentenced by a judge, in the community's interest, to a conditional sentence due to the fact that the person is gainfully employed. Because of the nature of conditional sentences, conditional sentences take longer to fulfill. Ironically, that would actually lead to the capture of this person with this legislation, because it would exceed six months.
The second thing this amendment was intended to do was restore access to appeal for those convicted of crimes outside of Canada or for those who have committed acts outside Canada. I believe it is the Immigration Appeal Division that is the appropriate body to properly evaluate these cases.
We know that in many countries, simply being a member of the opposition party can get an individual charged and convicted of a serious crime. Due process to evaluate these cases is essential in a free and democratic country like Canada, another moderate NDP proposal struck down by the Conservatives.
The go-it-alone, ignore-all-experts approach of this government was on full display as the Conservatives voted down all the official opposition's very reasonable amendments. New Democrats wanted to work across party lines to ensure the speedy removal of serious, non-citizen criminals. However, the Conservatives did not want it to work that way, and they did not work with us to make this legislation better.
Canadians want this Parliament to work together, and they want us to work together in the public interest. Unfortunately, Conservatives refused an opportunity to do just that.
Once again, before I hear speeches about how much my colleagues and I love criminals, love people who are engaged in all kinds of crime and want to protect the criminals, let me make it very clear. We were clear at committee and have been every time we have spoken in this House: We are committed to expediting the process of deportation of serious criminals who put Canada and Canadians at risk. However, we cannot stand by while due process is missing, while so much power is enshrined in the hands of a minister and while we stand in contravention of not only the UN but possibly of our own charter as well.
Mr. Speaker, thank you for giving me time to speak to this bill.
Last week, after introducing a bill notable for its repressive and primitive ideology, supporting its position with rare exceptions and rejecting the official opposition's amendments, the government imposed a time allocation motion to cut off debate on Bill . This behaviour is unacceptable. Clearly, the government wanted to muzzle MPs who would have liked to talk about this bill.
I believe that it is our duty to condemn the government's attitude at all stages of the legislative process for Bill . The government has been narrow-minded, its arguments demagogic, its ideology backward and its approach undemocratic.
Rather than listen to criticisms put forward by the official opposition, groups advocating for the rights of refugees, and immigration lawyers, the government chose to impose its will unilaterally at the expense of genuine democratic debate. The Conservatives are flouting the humanitarian tradition that has distinguished Canada for decades, choosing instead to undermine the principle of basic human rights.
We agree that non-citizens who commit serious crimes in Canada must be dealt with quickly. However, we are concerned about the fact that this bill gives the minister vast discretionary power without appropriate checks and balances.
This approach is all the more regrettable given that Bill will soon have serious negative consequences on many fronts. First, the number of deportations will rise sharply, and some of those deportations will be outrageous. The most striking example of this is the measure stating that offenders' family members may be affected by deportation policies. Many individuals will be deported to countries where they have no ties just because the government refuses to recognize that the proposed measures are excessive and will short-circuit the usual legal process.
It is also important to note that Bill substantially broadens the notion of serious criminality, now characterized as crime punishable by a sentence of six months or more, conditional or otherwise, regardless of whether the crime was violent. For example, a first offence punishable by a six-month conditional sentence—the offender will not actually spend time in jail—will still result in the deportation of the offender.
The minister will bring in a double punishment, accompanied by removal and no chance for appeal regarding the deportation, which goes against our judicial principles.
Furthermore, as Alex Neve from Amnesty International Canada said, the lack of relief mechanisms means that the circumstances will not be taken into account. This type of situation shows that Bill makes no sense.
Amy Casipullai, the senior policy and public education coordinator for the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants, said that the restrictions could affect more visible minorities because of the racial profiling certain police forces engage in. Not only will visible minorities be more likely to be arrested, but now, they and their families could also be removed without appeal, without any recourse. But the Conservatives chose to ignore this reality and instead accuse the witness of siding with criminals.
Similarly, a number of experts, including lawyer Jean Lash, have said that people with mental illnesses sometimes commit crimes as a result of their illness. Michael Bossin, a refugee lawyer, also argues that people with mental illnesses would face undue hardship if they were deported to a country where mental illness is often stigmatized.
Since refugees from war-torn countries are more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress, it makes sense that people are concerned about how Bill will affect them. However, the Conservatives are stubbornly ignoring the reality on the ground and would rather disregard this aspect.
Other restrictions imposed by Bill C-43 make absolutely no sense. If people are prohibited from being accompanied to an interview with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, they are prevented from receiving advice and support throughout the process. This can clearly be a hardship for them.
Bill C-43 would also indiscriminately standardize the consequences of a misrepresentation. Whether or not a misrepresentation is deliberate, it results in a five-year inadmissibility.
All of the new discretionary powers granted to the minister, without any checks and balances, will create the potential for abuse.
We proposed an amendment to require the minister to be accountable and transparent regarding these discretionary powers. Unfortunately the Conservatives rejected this suggestion.
Based on public policy considerations, a concept that is not defined in the act, the minister will be able to label someone as a threat without any justification, without having to explain his decisions and, most importantly, without any checks and balances.
That is what happens with a bill that ignores criticisms, suggestions from the official opposition and comments from outside witnesses.
Bill C-43 will have disastrous results because of the significant flaws in the bill. It restricts the right of appeal without regard for the repercussions, curtails refugees' rights without consideration of our legal principles, expands the minister's discretionary power without any checks and balances and establishes a policy of mass deportation without consideration of the circumstances.
Instead of tackling the problems of serious criminality, the government is imposing a set of measures that will cause significant harm to individuals who do not deserve this type of treatment.
The Conservatives' determination to go it alone, to decide unilaterally and to avoid debate and discussion will have consequences. The first of these will be a defective policy whose flaws will surface quickly.
Bill C-43 is another stain on the Conservatives' immigration record.
The government's message is the following: the Conservatives will consider anyone who is not a bona fide Canadian to be a foreigner who cannot make a mistake. Even worse, not only can foreigners not make a mistake, but they will also be deported and, with this bill, their family can be booted out as well.
Canada has traditionally considered itself a country that welcomes immigrants and a leader in the protection of basic human rights.
The Conservatives are betraying this tradition by introducing a bill rooted in rhetoric that turns back the clock and makes unwarranted changes that will have serious consequences.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to address Bill this afternoon and to put on record what I believe is an important perspective.
First and foremost, if the minister genuinely wanted to get rid of foreign criminals or permanent residents who were committing all these crimes, I believe there is a lot more the minister could have done other than just bring in the legislation. We in the Liberal Party do believe that permanent residents who commit serious crimes should be deported, and it should be done in a timely fashion. We do believe that. We are not, to quote some government members, supporting criminals staying in Canada indefinitely. At the end of the day, we believe that there needs to be consequences. It is not too much to ask people who are coming to Canada to behave in a good fashion. A vast majority of permanent residents have done that.
The Liberal Party, in its time in government, generously opened the doors to immigrants from around the world and advocated for responsible behaviour in Canada, and we will continue to do so.
The bill goes back to June of last year in the dying days of the session. The had a big press conference and he had all sorts of PowerPoint slides. The minister spared no cost on this. He wanted to make a powerful statement, which all Canadians needed to know, that the government is committed to the faster removal of foreign criminals. He loved the headline and he wanted every media outlet to report that fact.
Many experts, many different stakeholders have said the bill is so far-reaching that the minister has gone overboard. In reality, that is really what has happened. He has gone a little overboard. If the minister really wanted to do Canadians and all residents a favour, maybe he should invest a little more in our border services and in resources for immigration.
I asked him how many foreign nationals do we have in Canada today who are not here legally who are committing crimes. I applaud the . He gave a somewhat honest answer. He recognized that he did not know. He has been the minister for six years and he does not know. Crime is a really important agenda item for the government, apparently. Yet he has no idea how many foreign nationals are in Canada today, let alone the fact that he does not even know how many of those foreign nationals are committing crimes. Why? Because he is more focused on the bigger picture, the big headline.
That might be good possibly for future leadership bids, but in terms of serving Canadians, I would suggest that there is a lot more that the could have done to deal with this issue, which is important to Canadians and all residents who live here and call Canada their home. The minister could have adequately resourced our services so that the people who commit these hideous and serious crimes could be deported in a more timely fashion. That is what we expected from the .
We have a number of concerns about Bill . One of them is using public policy to deny entry. The minister said, “It is okay. Trust me. I can determine what refugees are irregular arrivals”. Members will remember that piece of legislation. The minister wanted that power. This is the minister who said, “It is okay. I can determine what country in the world is a safe country”, even though we had other legislation that passed that said it should be dealt with by an advisory board made up of professionals, people who have expertise in a wide variety of issues such as human rights.
Now we have the minister, once again, wanting more power. He wants to be able to, through public policy, decide who should not be able to come to the country. One could say maybe that is just the Liberal Party talking and being critical of the minister but, no, all we have to do is look at what was said in the citizenship and immigration committee.
In committee Barb Jackman, a constitutional lawyer, said:
I have no doubt that the public policy grounds will lead to denying people admission on the basis of speech.
There were other individuals. This is a quote from the testimony of Michael Greene from the Canadian Bar Association on the same topic:
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.
This is not the Liberal Party saying this, and contrary to what the minister likes to say, which is that these lawyers are all lefties, social activists and so forth, these are people who are committed enough to share their ideas and their thoughts when they recognize that the government has gone overboard and who take the time to come and make a presentation to our committee. We should appreciate that.
There are other issues. Misrepresentation is now increased, from two years to five years, in terms of when a person would actually be able to reapply for immigration purposes to come to Canada. Again, the minister says that if people are filling out the application, by God, they should be honest, and if they are honest, they do not have a problem. Therefore, why would someone oppose increasing the time penalty from two years to five years when someone has been dishonest?
I am sure that the minister is aware of things such as unintentional or innocent misrepresentation. I am sure the minister is aware of bad immigration lawyers and employment agencies that provide misinformation. It is not always the applicant who might be at fault.
However, in the legislation, the minister does not care about that. He is prepared to ignore that issue completely and say that it does not matter. He does not care why it might have appeared on the form. That person will have to wait five years because of something that they might not have even been aware of and, for all intents and purposes, they thought they were being completely honest and straightforward on the application. However, there is no extra consideration whatsoever being given to that. It is a mindset. This is something where the Conservatives and the Liberals really differ.
Liberals believe in immigration in the true sense of the word. We believe that immigration is what has helped build our country to what it is today. We do not believe that if people land in Canada they have to become citizens or they are not good citizens of our land. The current government believes that if people land in Canada and have been here for three years, they had better be getting their citizenship or they plant a seed of doubt in terms of why they would not be getting their citizenship, that they are not as good as the rest of us for not getting their citizenship. If we listen to the rhetoric and the many comments that come from the minister, one can easily draw that sort of a conclusion.
I raised the issue in terms of children and the issue of family breakup. I must have hit a chord because the minister began his comments with it. We have families that immigrate to Canada every day, families of three, four, five and larger. I found the minister's response amazing. He said that if one member of a family commits a crime, it is not a problem. Their family does not have to stay in Canada. They can all leave Canada because that one person has to leave.
There is no evaluation or true sense of compassion in terms of what the circumstances behind the crime or the action were. Truth be known, it is not as black and white as many would like to think it is. I sat on a justice committee. That is why I said before that I believe in consequences for all crimes, period, whether they are committed by Canadians or permanent residents. I believe there needs to be consequences for crime, and I believe also that all my caucus colleagues support that.
Where the Liberals differ is that we are a little more sympathetic to the understanding of situations. That is why, for example, we believe it is appropriate to let judges have some judicial discretion. That is something in which we have a little more faith, the importance of an independent judicial system. However, the government does not recognize that at all. It is straightforward.
This was interesting. I cited three examples and the hon. member only made reference to two of the examples when we talked about youth crime. One of the crimes I mentioned was a 20-year-old with six pots of marijuana. On occasions I have explained in the House that, yes, those are for trafficking purposes. That is nothing new. The hon. member's comment was that the bill only relates to trafficking. Fine. I have acknowledged that in the past.
Does the minister not think there are 18-year-olds trafficking marijuana in high schools? Do I have news for the minister. It is there. It is real. It is happening today, not only by people who immigrated when they were two-year-olds but by people who were born in Canada. I will tell the hon. member something else. At times young people make some stupid decisions. If a person were in Canada since they were a one-year-old and they are now 20 years old and they get caught doing something stupid, is that justification for deporting that person in all cases? I would argue that it is not, not in all cases. The minister would ultimately argue, yes.
By my saying what I just said, the minister will say the Liberal Party supports people who sexually molest seniors, and I believe he tried to imply it. That is absolute rubbish, but that is one example the minister gave. The reality is that the minister is prepared to see a 20-year-old deported to a country he or she has never known, even though that person was a one-year-old when they came to Canada, because they had six pots of marijuana growing and attempted to sell it to some buddies.
Before one starts throwing stones, one needs to reflect on their own human behaviour.
At the end of the day the other example the minister gave was about using false identification. As opposed to hearing it from me, let me read exactly what was said in committee. I would ask the minister to really listen to this. I quote:
Using a false or fraudulent document is an offence under section 368 of the Criminal Code and carries a maximum potential penalty of 10 years. A 20-year-old permanent resident who is convicted of using fake identification to get into a bar while visiting the United States is inadmissible under IRPA because of a foreign conviction.
It does not matter that the U.S. court punished him with only a $200 fine. Paragraph 36(1)(b) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act does not require any particular sentence, only a foreign conviction.
This is coming from someone who represented the Canadian Bar, dealing with immigration work in the past, a presenter to the committee. The minister says that we have to do our homework. Part of the homework is listening to what people have to say when they come to the committee. I am just repeating something said before committee, and if one follows that example through, I think it would surprise a lot of people.
I brought up three issues. The one that the minister did not make reference to was a 20-year old taking his camera or cellphone into a movie theatre, recording some cool show he has just seen and then showing it in any way. Well, he is out of luck if he does not have his citizenship, even though he may have been here since he was one or two years old.
The point is that the government, in bringing forward this legislation, has gone too far and over-reached. We in the Liberal Party recognize the need to ensure that permanent residents who commit serious crimes should be deported. We believe that it should be done relatively quickly. There are ways that the government could be far more effective, if it genuinely wants to make our communities safer places to be. I cited that point at the very beginning, and I think it is an appropriate way to close.
If the government wants to prevent crimes from taking place in the first place, if it wants to deport those who are here illegally and who should not have been here in the first place, not because they committed a crime but because they have over-stayed, and if it wants to deport permanent residents who have committed serious crimes, the best thing it could do would be to invest in immigration services that facilitate that. The government could invest in our border services. If the government were prepared to do that, then it would be far more effective in making our communities safer places.
There are many other things that people should be reflecting on before this bill comes to a vote. I would suggest that the government did not listen to the types of amendment that we brought forward, some serious amendments, at committee.
I appreciate the fact that one of those amendments was modified by the government, where the minister uses his ability to deny access and would be obligated to submit that in a yearly report. At the very least, the House would then know when and how often the minister used that ability. We were hoping that the amendment would pass the way we suggested it, but I am glad that the government did recognize that particular Liberal amendment and made some modifications. However, for the most part, with that one exception, many other amendments that could really have improved the legislation were not passed.
As a final thought, I do believe that we need to look at a country like France that recognizes children who immigrate there as being more a part of their society, because of their age when they immigrated. Here I could give the example of someone in a tragic situation who had immigrated as a child and through a horrific accident became a foster child, which, no doubt, has happened in the past.
Mr. Speaker, the only disappointment I have today is that I only have 18 minutes instead of the 30 that would be allocated. I am starting out a little disappointed, but nonetheless the clock is the clock. At 5:15, the bells are going to ring. We are going to come back in the House to vote, and we are going to vote on the very bill we are speaking to this evening. Bill , the faster removal of foreign criminals bill, is going to pass because every person on this side of the House is going to support this piece of legislation. We are going to carry it over at third reading and send it to the Senate.
There is hope and opportunity for our colleagues who sit on the other side of the House to play a role in changing part of our immigration system that should have been changed decades ago. They could support the legislation this evening and see it pass. We could perhaps do what we did with Bill in the previous Parliament, and pass an immigration bill unanimously that will start the process of refugee reform in this country.
I listened closely to the member for . He continually says to all of us that he wants to see a stronger piece of legislation, a stronger justice system, that would ensure individuals who commit serious crimes and are not Canadian citizens are not allowed to stay in our country once they have served their time in jail.
The member liked listening to some of the witness at committee because they indicated they supported his perspective. One of our witnesses, Ms. Rosenfeldt, provided a passionate and detailed and descriptive understanding of why the bill should pass. The member's favourite piece to talk about is the trafficking of marijuana and how we could ever think that anyone who grows six plants would be trafficking. Ms. Rosenfeldt gave us a detailed description of how much trafficking an individual could do with that much marijuana. Nonetheless, the member for was not prepared to listen then, and unfortunately it sounds like he and his party are not prepared to listen today.
We promised in our platform during the election in May 2011 that we would implement this piece of legislation. The minister committed to doing the same shortly after the election. We introduced the legislation in the House prior to the summer.
It was interesting to hear the immigration critics for the NDP and the Liberal Party ask at the time the minister deposited the bill why he was doing it, as there would be no time to study it before the House was going to break for the summer. Now we are ready to vote at third reading this evening, and both of them claim they did not have enough time, that we did not provide the number of hours necessary to understand the bill or do enough detailed research. The reason the legislation was introduced prior to the summer was to give them the opportunity to read the legislation. We offered briefings from ministry officials and a detailed analysis of what the bill would mean. We were more than prepared to give them time to sit down with the ministry and have a better opportunity to understand the bill.
The NDP supported the bill at second reading. We brought it to committee, where members had the opportunity to study it. Instead of saying we have two hours on Tuesday or two hours on Thursday, or maybe we will spend 8 hours studying the bill, we asked the opposition how much time it would like and how many witnesses it would like to bring forward.
We asked the opposition what we could do to ensure they had every bit of knowledge they thought they would need to move the legislation forward, and as I heard my colleague from the NDP mention this afternoon, to try to work together, not sitting on the other side of the House voting against this piece of legislation. All of that effort, the work, the information that was provided, and all of the analysis and detail the minister brought forward to the committee at any time he was asked to come, seems to not have been necessary for the opposition, because they have stood here today and said they are going to vote against it.
I am glad the member for instructed us to listen to what the individuals said who came as witnesses to committee. I mentioned Sharon Rosenfeldt, who is the chair of Victims of Violence, and the comments she made about the bill. She also said:
Cutting short foreign criminals' opportunity for lengthy appeals will go a long way in minimizing and preventing the re-victimization of those innocent Canadians who are the victims of foreign offenders.
We are not the only ones saying this. When Ms. Rosenfeldt said this, it led me to think, and we brought together the information regarding all of the appeals that have been filed. I mentioned it when we were speaking at report stage, but it bears repeating. In 2007, at the Immigration Appeal Division, we had 830 appeals. In 2008, we had 954 appeals; in 2009, 1,086 appeals; in 2010, 849; and in 2011, there were 564 appeals. On average, since 2007, there have been over 850 appeals annually to the Immigration Appeal Division from serious criminals trying to delay their deportation.
When we look at the numbers and see the abuse that has taken place, we see a number of individuals and the cases, which have been cited time and time again by members of the government when speaking to the bill, of those who have taken advantage of that appeal process. They actually have a system here in Canada that they can take advantage of.
Tonight the NDP and the Liberal Party have the opportunity to play a role in getting rid of a system that is fraught with abuse, that is being taken advantage of. It has seen countless individuals not only stop their deportation from happening because of the appeal system that is in place but actually become repeat offenders.
When Ms. Rosenfeldt speaks of Canadians becoming further victimized, it is up to us, as a government, to ensure we take action. We have invested hours on the bill in the House of Commons, and at committee with our witnesses and all of the detailed discussion we had during clause-by-clause, and we have spent a lot of time going over each and every amendment. The government did not support amendments brought forward that were going to weaken the bill, but we certainly allowed for the discussion to happen so we could listen to what was being presented. We did in fact accept one amendment, and I appreciate the member for acknowledging that there was a strengthening of the bill.
At the end of the day, it is our responsibility to act on behalf of victims. It is our responsibility to act. Other countries have surpassed us in terms of timing with regard to this legislation and have moved much further down the road.
We have a partnership with, and we belong, to the Five Country Conference: the U.K., the United States, Australia and New Zealand. They have all acted on these issues. Misrepresentation was one issue. We are the only country that has not acted in a measurable way on these issues.
We stand here today at third reading to say not only are the government and those who sit on this side of the House going to support the legislation, we can actually see if members of the opposition are going to support it this evening. There are a number of other countries that have moved much quicker than this country has and in a much more aggressive way than we have.
The bill, when members look at the detail and where it stands, has three principle parts. The first makes it easier for the government to remove dangerous foreign criminals from our country. The second makes it harder for those who may pose a risk to Canada to enter the country in the first place, and the third removes barriers for genuine visitors who want to come to Canada. We have done a lot of speaking, defending and promoting of the first two parts, which make it easier for government to remove dangerous foreign criminals from our country and make it harder for those who pose a risk to Canada to enter the country in the first place.
One point that I want to highlight is the removing of barriers for genuine visitors who want to come to Canada. The and his ministry plays a role in the legislation as well. We do not need to look much further than section 42, which will actually make it easier for low-risk foreign nationals travelling with their families, who would like to come to Canada on a temporary basis, to become admissible here.
For example, a parent who is inadmissible on health grounds would remain inadmissible and require a temporary resident permit to visit Canada, but the remaining family members would now be admissible. Therefore, we are opening the door to say that, on a temporary basis, they can visit the country. They have a family member who is inadmissible and that family member would have to remain inadmissible, but for the relatives of that family member, there is an opportunity. Currently, they are inadmissible. Under Bill , they would be admissible to Canada.
Further, inadmissible persons seeking ministerial relief would have to submit a formal application. The minister's authority to grant relief on his or her own initiative without a formal application will be explicitly spelled out. For example, the minister could use this explicit authority to facilitate the entry of a head of state who would otherwise be found inadmissible, if the minister was satisfied that the decision was not contrary to national interests.
While I have heard the speakers today and I have heard the members of the committee from the NDP and Liberal Party proclaim that the legislation focuses on those who are criminals who will be removed from our country, who are not citizens, who are permanent residents who have come here. The opposition members have not once stood up to talk about the fact that the legislation actually does allow for the easier transfer of family members who may have a relative who is inadmissible. It would allow them to actually come here to Canada.
A number of people, including the member for , mentioned the fact that we had witnesses, and that we should have heard and listened to them. Ravi Jain, who is an immigration lawyer, was quoted. When he was asked about this issue, he said:
If you're coming to Canada and you happen to have relatives with you, dependents with you, and if you're inadmissible, but for minor reasons, like you know, maybe some criminality, but not really overly serious, but not organized criminality, or if it's health grounds or some other, you know, misrepresentation or other kinds of grounds, and you're coming, you have special permit to overcome that inadmissibility, then you're no longer going to render your dependents inadmissible at the same time, because right now if you're coming with someone who's inadmissible, if you're the wife or kids or whatever, then you're automatically inadmissible.
Those in opposition to the bill have stated that they have immigration lawyers who have said to them that the bill goes too far. It is great to hear from immigration lawyers who have done their homework and understand the legislation.
The third most important part of the bill, which is recognized by Mr. Jain, is that when an individual is not allowed to come into the country, his or her family at least will be in the position come into the country, when it is a minor offence or an issue of health. Both the and the will have some latitude in terms of their ability to allow those family members into the country. It did not happen before, but it will happen now.
I want to conclude by thanking all of those from the government side who sit on the immigration committee. We have worked on two very significant pieces of legislation, Bill C-31 and now Bill . One of the most difficult things to do is to ensure one does justice to the legislation as it moves forward.
I can say, and I have not heard in respect to my colleagues on the other side of the House, this about their complaint about this government or committee's ability to give enough time to research, work and move forward on legislation. I thank all the members of the committee who did a tremendous job, including the chairman, who every once in a while even has to call me to order. I know that is hard to believe. We do on occasion certainly enjoy the hard work for us to move forward. It is important to recognize that both members of our committee and those who sit on the opposition benches, regardless of position, have put countless and tireless hours in moving this legislation forward.
This legislation is good for Canada. It will improve the view people from around the world have about how Canada treats those who come here for the purposes of permanent residency and who are in fact criminals.
We are now in a position where the legislation would allow us to do what so many other countries are doing, and that is to ensure we have a fast, strong process that removes foreign criminals from our country.