House of Commons Hansard #159 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was criminals.

Topics

Statements by Members
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member says that we should not be allowed to speak about a carbon tax in the House now. Every member of Parliament is responsible to his or her constituents who, if they were faced with a $21.5 billion carbon tax, would have to pay that and their personal lives would be affected by it. Nothing could be more important for a member of Parliament than to stand up for constituents on issues like taxes. I cannot imagine why she would want to shut down that debate, other than she does not like it.

Statements by Members
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

There have been previous Speaker rulings on what S. O. 31s should and should not be used for. I will go back and look at the particular S. O. 31 that the member has complained about and, if necessary, I will come back to the House after the Thanksgiving break.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-43, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, be read a second time and referred to a committee.

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October 4th, 2012 / 3:15 p.m.

NDP

Alain Giguère Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-43 should be a law that protects Canadians, a law that finally addresses past injustices. Unfortunately, the very opposite is true. This bill attacks the civil rights of Canadians. Never has a bill been such a huge disappointment.

For example, I shall quote Sir Winston Churchill who, during the Anzio Battle, said to an American general who had not been very active: “I had hoped we were hurling a wildcat into the shore, but all we got was a stranded whale.” The whale, in this case, is Bill C-43, a piece of legislation that in no way corresponds to what Canada needs. I will give three reasons for this.

Canada is a country in which the rule of law prevails. When someone does something wrong, he can expect to have justice meted out to him—this is true for everyone, not just those people that the Conservatives consider a little dangerous. It seems that the political powers that be are still intent on meddling in the management of immigration issues. People want the exact opposite of this bill. They do not want any more political interference in immigration matters. There has been far too much interference in the past, and as a result, what we need now is new legislation, and not simply a rehashing of old ideas from old governments.

We are seeing an increasingly arbitrary concentration of powers in the hands of the minister. The minister now not only wields political power, he also wants to wield legal power. As Machiavelli once said, “Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.” What we are seeing in Canada is a government that interferes in immigration matters and merges electoral partisanship with legal duty. This problem should have been fixed; unfortunately, it is being perpetuated.

Bar associations and stakeholders in the legal community and the field of immigration rights have criticized the concentration of political power in the hands of the minister. They all agree that we should not do this, that we should do exactly the opposite. Some even say that the minister has discretionary power to determine the inadmissibility of a deportee’s family members. This is absolute discretionary power. If you are nice, if you look good for the media, and if you could be useful during a campaign, the minister will support you. And if not, it is a pity, but you will suffer the consequences.

As Montesquieu noted, there is no liberty if the power of judging be not separated from the legislative and executive powers. These basic democratic principles, these fundamental principles of our Constitution state that the legislative branch must be separate from the judiciary and from the executive branch. In this case, the government is trying to do exactly the opposite.

The government also wants to do away with the minister's responsibility to examine humanitarian considerations. Generally, in a judicial process, the whole file is considered so that a fair decision can be handed down. That is the normal judicial process. That is what we expected, but the government is doing the opposite. The most essential and most basic rights are being attacked, and this poorly conceived, poorly executed piece of legislation is going to be the subject of a court challenge. And once again, the government will lose, like it loses time and time again. It is a bad piece of legislation.

They were asked to stand up for Canada. What are they doing? The opposite: attacking Canadians. They are attacking their notion of the law.

They are attacking their right to a fair judgment.

Legal proceedings are an essential part of the legislation. However, in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, commission members are appointed in haste, based on their ability to raise money for a political party, based on their personal friendships. This was already the case under the former government of a former political party.

The Conservatives are repeating the same mistakes, all the while saying that they will be tough on crime. No, this is the exact opposite of what they should be doing. We are asking for qualified individuals with solid legal training to make solid judgments. What are they doing? It is mediocrity at its finest: they are doing nothing. They are repeating the same mistakes that were made in the past. It is disastrous. We have never seen anything so pathetic.

It was proven that, upon reading the same legislation, some commission members accepted 98% of refugees, while a certain other commission member, in accordance with the same act, accepted only 2%. On the face of it, it is clear that this formula is not worth very much.

Cases of corruption have not just been pointed out, but they have been proven in court. These people have been convicted, found guilty of corruption beyond a shadow of a doubt. No corrections are made. We are asking for judges to be appointed, individuals who have judicial independence. Once again, they are appointing officials, friends, people who may not even be qualified. The government is not proving that they are qualified.

Once again, they are deciding to do the same things as in the past, with the same flaws, and they are going a step further by saying that they are going to fix the situation. Unfortunately, nothing at all is being fixed.

Now comes the third point, namely, whom they are targeting. All Canadian citizens who were not born in Canada may feel threatened. But that is where the major problem comes in. We are expecting a "Rizzuto" law. Mr. Rizzuto committed murders and is now in prison. He was not born in Canada, but he comes back here and everyone knows it. What is he going to do? He is going to commit murders. The police know it, all the criminal law experts know it. He comes to avenge his father and son, who were killed in a gang war.

We had hoped that this government, which claims to be tough on crime, would prevent individuals like that from coming to spread poison into our lives. But no, it seems to be clear that they are going after the little fish, the petty crooks, the small-time drug dealers, the people who get six months in jail. Yes, they have to be deported, but let us not forget the big fish, the people who bring in cocaine by the container-load. We are forgetting them, we are ignoring them.

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3:20 p.m.

An hon. member

Oh, oh!

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3:20 p.m.

NDP

Alain Giguère Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

So my words are shocking, are they? Well, good, because Canadians too are shocked to see that people like that are coming into Canada with a form of immunity. How many big Mafia bosses that are known to us in Canada have been deported? Zero.

Judge Falcone, an Italian anti-Mafia judge, used to say that organized crime could not grow if it did not have political protection. Has the government agreed to become that political protection? We know that political protection existed in the past. We know that the RCMP even said not to accept a certain individual as a minister. He became a minister in a previous government.

So we are asking the Conservatives to make an effort in that area, to allow no more Conrad Blacks, no more people who give up their Canadian citizenship in order to get a British title, but who come back to Canada once they are sentenced to jail. Let us be tough on crime once more.

This government and some of its elected members are clearly fleeing their posts in the face of the enemy. Our enemy is serious criminality. With this bill, they have surrendered.

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3:25 p.m.

St. Catharines
Ontario

Conservative

Rick Dykstra Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the speech from my colleague, and I guess he does not really understand what Bill C-43 is, fast-tracking foreign criminals out of Canada.

He wants to talk about how he thinks Canadian citizens should not be allowed back into the country. If he has a way for those criminals who have committed the crimes he has suggested to not come back to the country, I would suggest he introduce a private member's bill. No Canadian citizen is allowed to be barred from Canada.

Let us get back to the bill, because he did not speak very much about it, other than to ask why we are pursuing drug traffickers and why we are pursuing criminals who are not Canadian citizens and who have committed serious crimes in this country. If the member is saying it is okay for drug traffickers to stay here in Canada and we should not be pursuing them and we should be keeping Canadian citizens out of Canada, that is a backwards approach.

I am not sure if the member really understands the bill. Perhaps we should get the bill to committee, because it would actually give us an opportunity to educate this member and any of his other colleagues who do not understand Bill C-43. It is a perfect place for us to sit down, negotiate and obviously teach them what the bill is all about.

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3:25 p.m.

NDP

Alain Giguère Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, when you wash your hands of the matter when a person who has committed murder on behalf of the Mafia, who has lived his entire life in the Mafia, and who has spread poison into our lives comes back to Canada, Canadians know perfectly well that you are abandoning your posts in the face of the enemy. You are giving that enemy permission to keep attacking Canada.

Judge Toti has said that there are three kinds of politicians: those who fight the Mafia, those who work for the Mafia and, the most dangerous of all, those who leave the Mafia alone. We are going to study this bill in committee with a view to giving it the teeth that you have not given it, the teeth to go after the people who are really running organized crime, not just the small fry, the people who bother you, the people who are letting you put on this charade.

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3:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

Order. I would remind all members to direct their comments through the Chair.

The hon. member for Winnipeg North.

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3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, as I have indicated before, this is indeed an anti-immigrant bill.

At the end of the day, if it was just about serious criminals and deporting serious criminals who are permanent residents, I suspect the government would have a lot more support.

It goes far beyond that. To illustrate that in the form of an example, if someone is part of a family in a country abroad and one of the children immigrates to Canada, and if that person wants to visit that child someday but has another dependent who is involved in some sort of gang activity, that parent will not be able to come to Canada to visit the child. That is this serious crime bill that the government is talking about.

I am wondering if the member might want to comment on the fact that this bill does a lot more than just deal with serious crime by permanent residents?

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3:30 p.m.

NDP

Alain Giguère Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, we had high hopes for this bill. We were hoping that it would prevent abuses like the ones we have already seen and talked about. Unfortunately, this bill basically attacks only what makes headlines. It does not address the essential elements of discrimination that allow the minister to decide who is a good guy and who is a bad guy.

This is an anti-immigrant bill. It points fingers at immigrants and paints them all as criminals. It is dangerous to do that. Innocent people are having fingers pointed at them, but because they are immigrants, they might even be accused of being criminals. This puts everyone in the same category: they all come to Canada to commit crimes. But that is not the case. That is the problem. Fingers are being pointed at people who do not deserve it. And for those who should be punished, I was expecting a “Rizzuto” law, a solid bill, but that is not what was introduced.

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3:30 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join today's debate on Bill C-43, an act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. The government has tagged it with new lines, calling it the faster removal of foreign criminals act. It is unfortunate that these types of titles have now been introduced into legislation that is supposed to be very serious. This one is very serious. It is a continuation of our immigration drift.

We are going to support the bill to get it to committee because as New Democrats we believe our immigration system is fundamentally flawed and broken, and we are open to discussing how to improve it in any capacity. Some of the issues in the bill are going to be raised, and we will have some good expert testimony at committee to talk about these issues.

It is important to note that our immigration system is necessary in our country for us to function in an economic democracy. We do not have a population that can sustain itself alone.

We have been founded on the principles of multiculturalism and openness. That is changing because we are slowly eroding our immigration system. In fact, even in Windsor West, the riding I represent, I have an immigration office. The doors are shut. People cannot go there to get help on their immigration files.

Karen Boyce and Ian Bawden are in my office. Karen has been with me for 10 years and is finally going to retire at the end of December. I thank her for her commitment in all the cases she has strove through. In fact, many times on her own time she would actually get up in the middle of the night to call an embassy somewhere else to try to get paperwork or something processed. She would do that, literally, all the time. That is how dedicated she is. She has fought many times to have children pulled off planes, who were going to be deported to countries of which they never were actually part. They were born in Canada and their parents had been denied or their process for humanitarian grounds had not been accepted.

It is unfortunate, because when we look at an economy like ours in Windsor, it is critical that we have these processing issues taken care of rather quickly because we have so many people who cross the border into the United States.

I always use this example because I think it is important. We have a lot of doctors and other professionals who are not recognized in Canada and in Ontario who end up working over in Detroit, Michigan, and bringing that economic income stream back to our area. Ironically, sometimes when our hospitals are full here, or there is a specialty that we do not have, we send Canadian citizens over to those hospitals where they can be treated by the doctor who is not trusted over here in Canada. It is ironic that we pay a premium for it.

What is important is that we have many people who cannot get to their jobs until their actual immigration and processing have been completed. Often if we do not solve these cases they can lose those jobs. Those jobs are critical for our economy. The Canadian economy is not having the rebound we want, and I see it every single day on the streets of Windsor, so any extra employment that we can access in the United States is important. It has been a common thing that we have been doing for many years. It is one of the reasons we have a strong and healthy relationship. It is a symbiotic relationship between the Detroit greater region and Windsor Essex County. In fact it makes it a good economic strong hub. Part of that is the ability to traverse back and forth. Our immigration system is not contributing to success.

One of features of the bill that gives me some cause for concern is the concentration of power into the minister's office. At any time he can revoke or shorten the effective period of declaration for admissibility. That is one particular example.

The reason I am concerned is that I remember during the debate on Bill C-31, which was a refugee act that was changed, listening to the minister and the government members. The words they were using on Bill C-31 about the refugees in general were “protection”, “take advantage”, “security of population“, “abuse”, “crackdown” and “bogus”. With that type of tone, what are we going to have out of a minister's office that is going to have more capabilities and less control on oversight if that is the general theme and attitude about refugees?

I want to name a few refugees to Canada, because it is important to put a human face on our refugees. They are people like K'naan. He was born in Somalia. He spent his childhood in Mogadishu, lived there during the Somalia civil war and came to Canada in 1991. Is a person like that a threat? He is a refugee.

How about Adrienne Clarkson, our former Governor General of Canada? She emigrated from Hong Kong as a refugee in 1942. She came here, making her mark and contributing to Canada.

Fedor Bohatirchuk, a chess grandmaster who has since passed away, was persecuted in the Ukraine. He came to Canada and contributed for many years.

Sitting Bull, the Sioux chief, is an interesting one. He left America for Canada as a holy man who led his people as a tribal chief during the years of resistance in the United States. Sitting Bull eventually came to Canada from the United States and became a successful citizen.

In looking at some of these issues, I want to touch on one of the points that has been made with respect to criminal activity. Some of the comments that have been made by professionals are important.

Michael Bossin, a refugee lawyer in Ottawa, spoke about how those who have been convicted of an offence, even a small or lesser offence, can now be deported outside of the country, which will put them further at risk or in trouble. I used to work at the Multicultural Council. I had a program called youth in action. I will talk a bit about that in a minute. However, I want to mention that when refugees or youth commit crimes it is sometimes a cry for help; sometimes it can be due to mental health; sometimes it is just a really bad mistake; sometimes they do not have medication and it could be due to psychological issues that are taking place. When they get into programs that assist those people, they actually become better citizens and better people who are more engaged and contribute to society on a regular basis.

The issue of mental health in the general Canadian public is swept aside, let alone when it involves those who are involved in a criminal activity. It is important for judges to have more flexibility to be able to determine the case. Before I get into the work we used to do, I want to say that our judicial system has made some terrible mistakes. It is not perfect. Mistakes can be made when decisions are being made with respect to people. Maybe information is not presented properly, did not get there or was inadmissible. As we know, those who have money will get the best lawyer they can because they want the best representation. How many refugees in Canada are walking around with a pile of cash and can hire the best lawyer? I have often seen this issue come through my office. It is horrible that people have spent money on lawyers by borrowing it from other people or using credit cards and other types of things, which they find very difficult to repay because they do not have that economic stream going at the moment, and that puts them in an even worse situation. That is the harsh reality of our judicial system.

I want to talk a bit about the Multicultural Council program that I ran. We had 16 to 18 youth at risk between the ages of 18 to 30. I know they are called youth, but it went all the way up to age 30. However, they were usually in the 20-year range. We had eight Canadians who had been in Canada basically all of their lives, who had made mistakes that created a problem by way of a minor fine, a penalty or a criminal record. Then there were eight new people who had just immigrated to Canada. We mixed them together to create a program called multicultural youth in action wherein they did community work, learned all kinds of life skills and conducted interviews. We had an over 90% success rate at getting them back into school and/or employment. When we think about it, that program ran for several years and was very successful.

I will conclude with this. What we were able to do with some of those youth, and I say some because we could not get them all, was save taxpayers money because they were not going back into the judicial system or going into the penal system, where they would actually learn more behaviours and take a longer time to be rehabilitated, as opposed to paying the price for what they had done and learning to contribute as a citizen.

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3:40 p.m.

Willowdale
Ontario

Conservative

Chungsen Leung Parliamentary Secretary for Multiculturalism

Mr. Speaker, in the last while I have heard a lot of comments about this particular bill, but I think there is an attempt by the opposition members to confuse some of the issues. They talk about immigration, refugees and multiculturalism.

What the bill specifically talks about are those people who are in Canada who have chosen not to become Canadians. They are just permanent residents who have broken our laws.

When we asked people to come and build this country, we asked them to come and join in our shared values, the same shared values that all Canadians enjoy, appreciate and abide by. If they choose to go against that and break our laws, that is the undesirable element.

I came here and transitioned from an international student to a landed immigrant, to a permanent resident, to a citizen and eventually to representing my constituents. That is what we are asking for, that people come here and share and abide by our shared values.

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3:40 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, the reality is that not everybody is perfect and sometimes people do make mistakes but what do we do as a society about that? What do we do about the consequences on the other people who are affected?

I will read something from my staff, “One case that came in the office today is a twenty nine year old gentleman from Serbia that is being deported. All of his family live here in Canada now mother, sisters and brother. He has been here 6 years and works at two jobs a restaurant and as a home renovator for a local contractor. He has an H&C [a humanitarian and compassionate ground appeal case] in but again that will not be seen for at least another 3 years. He has no family in Serbia.

He is being deported. We have had more and more of these cases.

What possible benefit would that have? We should let the due process happen first before we send this man out of the country. He has family here and we know there have been problems in Serbia before. They are well documented in that region. What benefit will that be for our country to throw this young man out?

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3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, as I said and will continue to say, this is an anti-immigrant bill. This bill would have an impact in some fashion or another on 1.5 million permanent residents.

The bill itself is titled, “faster removal of foreign criminals act. The government chose to use the word “foreign” as opposed to the words “permanent resident”. What we are really talking about are permanent residents, those 1.5 million people.

As language is important, would the member explain why the government has chosen to use the words “foreign criminals” as opposed to “permanent residents”? We are really talking about permanent residents.