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

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is why I mentioned some of the people who were refugees before. It is the tone that is being set and the concerns I have about concentration in the back halls and the dark doors of the minister, behind the scenes, and what could be said and done. We have already heard some of this come out in the past.

The fact is that other refugees around the world have played important roles. Bob Marley from Jamaica, for example, was a refugee. Olivia Newton John's grandfather was a refugee. Jackie Chan, Jerry Springer, Madeleine Albright, Henry Kissinger, Victor Hugo and Albert Einstein were all refugees. My concern is the degree to which we could go on this and having complete blind faith in the judicial system that could make a mistake with somebody.

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my hon. colleague from Windsor West on his great speech. He reminded us of the human faces that are behind all of these bills. I wonder if he could expand a little more on the impact that this kind of language has on his constituency office and the cases he must often see in his office.

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is terrible. We listen to the cases every day of people coming in. We are talking about families that are being broken apart. Sometimes there are children involved. If somebody has children in this country, they are Canadian citizens. It is not the children's fault that somebody else made decisions that have repercussions on them. Does that mean that we throw them out? The answer is, yes, we do because if they do not go with their parents they become wards of the state by themselves here. It is horrible to see these cases because often it is just processing time.

With this bill, we are focusing our time and the government is focusing its energy on the wrong types of things. We should get the processing times in place so we can make right and fair decisions for people.

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act
Government Orders

October 4th, 2012 / 3:45 p.m.

NDP

Nycole Turmel Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to debate Bill C-43, which proposes amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

As my colleagues before me indicated, we will support the bill at second reading, but this support is far from being a blank cheque. Bill C-43 has a number of significant shortcomings that will need to be addressed in committee. On this side of the House, we want to co-operate with the government to make Bill C-43 a fairer and more balanced bill.

Canadians expect us to be capable of reaching compromises. Compromises are at the core of a democratic system such as Canada's. Refusing to compromise is tantamount to failing to fulfill one's democratic obligations. Since the last election, our colleagues opposite have too often shown themselves to be closed off to dialogue and compromise. This is very regrettable. I sincerely hope that that will change.

Canadians want us to impose tough penalties on non-Canadians who commit serious crimes in Canada. I am certain that law-abiding newcomers to Canada—and it is important to say that they are almost all law-abiding—share our opinion.

What people in this country are asking for is a guarantee that our judicial system is efficient and sufficiently flexible when it comes time to return criminals who do not have Canadian citizenship to their countries of origin. Canadians especially want the government to invest more energy in ensuring that applications by newcomers are processed more quickly and more efficiently. The Conservatives should go to greater lengths to ensure, for example, that these people can be reunited with members of their family as quickly as possible.

As I said earlier, I have several reservations concerning the content of this bill. For example, I have trouble understanding the reasons for the new discretionary powers being given to the minister. If Bill C-43 were to come into force tomorrow morning, the minister would have the power to declare that a foreign national may not become a temporary resident if he considers that it is justified by public policy considerations. However, one of the problems with this proposal is that the concept of public policy considerations is not defined. This opens the door to very different interpretations of what may constitute public policy considerations. This must be addressed.

I also have a lot of trouble understanding the presence of a clause that relieves the minister of his responsibility to examine the humanitarian circumstances associated with the application of a foreign national deemed inadmissible. I would like someone to explain the reason for this measure to me. I do not understand why humanitarian and compassionate grounds would not be taken to consideration in a review. Is that really the Canada that we want?

One of the biggest problems with this bill is that it severely limits access to the appeals process. We all agree that our appeal system must not be exploited in order to deliberately delay the removal of a non-resident to his country of origin, but the measures contained in Bill C-43 should not limit human rights.

The Conservatives have promoted their bill by speaking almost exclusively about the fact that it will speed up the deportation of dangerous offenders. However, Bill C-43 casts a far wider net than that. Among other things, it redefines serious crimes.

Under the present system, an individual who has committed a crime punishable by two years or more has no access to the appeal process. Bill C-43 wants to lower the bar to crimes punishable by six months or more. As a result, a lot more people will be denied the opportunity to appeal a decision made in their case.

Let us be clear. I am not fundamentally opposed to tightening the definition of “serious criminality”.

One benefit would be to take in crimes like sexual assault and robbery, which in itself is a good thing. However, I think we have to be vigilant and make sure the new definition does not lead to poorly thought out decisions.

One thing I am concerned about is what effects the new system of minimum sentences provided in Bill C-10 might have on decisions to be made in removal cases.

Some crimes covered by that new system are non-violent crimes. So we have to be careful when it comes to limiting access to the appeal process. The restriction in the legislation must not be extended too far by Bill C-43. Yes, we have to stop non-citizens who have committed serious crimes from abusing our appeal system. But we also have to be sure that we take an intelligent approach to all of this. We really have to preserve a balance. Most importantly, we have to be able to guarantee that the right decision will be made in each removal case.

The appeal mechanism is a useful tool for that purpose. Why would we take it away? We will have to pay particular attention to this issue once it gets to committee.

So far, we have heard the Conservatives telling us over and over that it is easy for non-citizens to avoid deportation: all they have to do is not commit serious crimes. I would hope so, but honestly, in real life, things are not necessarily black and white. We all know that reality is more complex than that. Bill C-43 should be constructed in a way that reflects that complexity.

For example, what do we do with offenders who came to Canada at a very young age and who know nothing about the country they are to be deported to? Some organizations have raised concerns on this point, but that is not a factor to be considered under Bill C-43.

In the NDP, we want to work with the government to prevent non-citizens who have committed serious crimes from abusing our appeal system. However, we do not want the mechanisms that make it possible for our system to deal with extraordinary circumstances in a flexible manner to be eliminated.

Like the government, we want our judicial system to be effective and to make it possible for non-citizens who have committed serious crimes to be removed as soon as possible, but we do not want to have botched, unbalanced processes that do not take special situations into account. Wanting to expedite the removal of foreign criminals is a laudable objective in itself, but we have to make sure the process leading to removal does not violate the person’s rights. In our society, we have a duty to make decisions that are just and that recognize everyone’s rights.

Bill C-43 is a bill on which we can and must build. As I said earlier, we will support it at second reading, but we have to rework it. We will all benefit from being able to hear what the experts and representatives of organizations that specialize in these issues have to say.

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Jamie Nicholls Vaudreuil-Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, the question is, how did we get to this point? I would like to raise three points with the hon. member.

First, let us talk about our involvement on the international stage. In the past, we engaged in cultural outreach with other countries. It was the first point of contact for people in other countries. We showed them our Canadian culture. That was taken away. Then all the resources for integration were taken away, especially the integration of professionals who come here to be part of our society, to work and to build a strong country. Basically, I see this bill as part of a step-by-step agenda that is unfortunately moving us towards an anti-immigration policy.

Can the hon. member give us more details about the New Democrats' vision of immigration issues?

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Nycole Turmel Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question.

The Conservatives' bill deals with a small minority. They have used a few highly publicized cases in order to introduce a bill that reflects their ideology. That is very unfortunate. As my colleague mentioned, New Democrats want Canada to be seen around the world as a law-abiding country that is open, just and fair. That means having a fair system of appeals for all Canadians, a system that can also accommodate newcomers with problems. That is the kind of Canada that New Democrats want.

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, one of my really big concerns about the bill is how it is going to affect youth as well as its consequences on other family members. What happens sometimes with refugees who come here is that if the youth are not busy and active they can often find themselves in cultural shock. Part of the program that I ran was to help mend the fences around the cultural shock.

Alternatively, these youth fall in with other groups and gang activity because they have nothing else. If they are not at school or if they are out of work, they are in a percentage that is highly vulnerable to being influenced by other people, especially when they do not know a new country.

I would like my colleague to examine the issues of vulnerability in the bill related to youth and families, especially when concentrating so much power in the minister's office.

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Nycole Turmel Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague brings up a very important point: integrating new families. We have highly educated newcomers whose credentials are not recognized. I understand that this is a provincial matter, but the federal government could well play a major role.

This destabilizes families. When young children are involved, instability associated with employment and social integration can result in young people ending up in gangs and creating problems for themselves and those around them. That is what must be considered. We must make sure that we integrate newcomers so that they can feel secure in Canada. That is what we want for our Canada.

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is more specifically about the consequences of this bill and, more importantly, the language used in it. I would like the hon. member to tell me about her experience in her constituency office and the very human stories she has been told.

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act
Government Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Nycole Turmel Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, in my riding of Hull—Aylmer, I receive a lot of requests from newcomers.

What I find appalling about this bill is the responsibilities that the minister wants to take. We know very well that when immigration cases are referred to the minister's office, he categorically refuses to get involved. But now he wants to give himself a power without an appeal process, which may affect everyone. I have truly appalling cases in my riding of Hull—Aylmer, where newcomers might need training and integration support, but mainly they need help in the community. But the Conservative budget does not allow for that.

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act
Government Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Djaouida Sellah Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-43, which we are debating, is a bill amending the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

First, I would like to say that the New Democrats acknowledge that the judicial process must be effective and flexible when it comes to removing dangerous criminals who are not Canadian citizens.

Canadians want strict measures to be taken against non-citizens who commit serious and often violent offences in our communities. Newcomers, most of whom are law-abiding, would be the first to accept this approach.

What I really like about this bill is the clause that will ensure that entering Canada because of organized criminal activity is not in itself enough for a person to be deemed inadmissible for permanent residency and Canadian citizenship, which is great news for victims of trafficking rings who are anything but criminals.

On the other hand, I find some things in this bill quite disturbing. The first one is the minister’s discretionary power to decide whether or not some people represent a threat to national security and the national interest. In fact, this bill increases the arbitrary powers given to the minister. For example, Bill C-43 gives the minister vast powers that enable him to prevent a foreign national from entering or leaving the country, or declare someone inadmissible based on public policy considerations we think are ambiguous.

We must strengthen the independence of the judicial system, not give the minister the ability to decide who enters and leaves Canada. The last thing our immigration system needs is to be even more politicized.

Canada has an efficient and independent system to determine the admissibility of people into the country. There is no point in replacing it with the whims of a minister. The minister must not be able to prevent people entering the country just because they disagree with the government. It is ridiculous to think that giving the minister more power will solve anything.

Another problem comes from the fact that the provisions of Bill C-43 will apply to people who have been found guilty of serious crimes abroad, as well as in Canada. Canada has one of the world’s best justice systems. Other countries are not so lucky. In many countries, merely belonging to an opposition party may lead to a conviction on serious criminal charges. There is no better illustration of the importance of the rule of law.

We must ensure that Canada remains a country that welcomes and offers hope to people who are fleeing persecution in other lands.

That said, I do think it reasonable to ensure that people guilty of sexual assault or robbery with violence are not running loose on our streets.

In view of the change in the definition of “serious criminality”, the change from the criterion of a two-year sentence to a six-month sentence, and since crimes committed abroad would be considered, the professionals who work with immigrants, refugees and the diasporas have also expressed their concerns that this legislation may unjustly punish young people and the mentally ill.

Therefore, the impact of this provision must be carefully studied to ensure that the measures truly achieve their goal, to prevent dangerous people from entering Canada.

Another thing that disturbs me in this bill—and in the government’s policy in general—is the image of immigrants they have created. The bills are trumpeted as if immigrants were a great threat to the country or as if all immigrants were potential criminals, when almost all immigrants to Canada are people who are seeking a better life and a better future and who, like all other Canadians, want to live in a safe environment.

I am an immigrant. I chose Quebec and Canada to live and raise my family, and I am very happy to be involved in my community in Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert. I made this particular choice because I wanted a safe environment for my family, and I have found it here.

Immigrating is not easy, particularly if you are not coming to join family members who are already here. You have to start from zero. You have to find a place to live, and furnish it. You have to find a school for your children. You have to get your diplomas recognized, and in my case that was a nightmare. Finding a job is also a major challenge. A 2010 study shows that the unemployment rate is four times higher among immigrants with a university diploma than among university graduates born in Canada.

The last thing immigrants need is to be stigmatized and have a “potential criminal” aura, which would make it even more difficult for them to integrate and contribute to society in Quebec and Canada. The government has got to abandon the rhetoric that puts all immigrants in the same basket. People in my riding are already telling me disturbing stories about how they are treated and the perception others may have of them, simply because they have come from somewhere else.

That said, we must not ignore the problems that exist. We simply have to be sure our response is measured. As they say where I come from, you do not use a hammer, or a cannon, to kill a mosquito.

I know we can stop non-citizens who commit serious crimes from abusing our appeal process without denying their rights. We, and the government, have to focus on improving the immigration system so it is faster and fairer for the large majority of people who do not commit crimes and who follow the rules.

I would point out again that the very large majority of people who come to Canada are not criminals. They are people who hope to contribute to society and build a better world. More often than not, they are even professionals and highly educated people.

In closing, I want to say that the question of health care for refugees is still an issue and is still important. The government probably wants us to forget the cuts it has made to that program. Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with the College of Family Physicians of Canada, who asked me to keep up the fight for health care for refugees. I want to remind the government that we in the NDP are not forgetting this.

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Denis Blanchette Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have listened to several speeches. What I like is that every NDP member who has spoken has contributed something different to the debate. I thank my colleague for her speech. I especially enjoyed hearing about her experience as an immigrant. She gave us a different perspective on the debate. We look at it from the viewpoint of those who welcome immigrants, but it is also important to hear about the perspective of the people who immigrate to Canada.

I was struck by one aspect of her speech. She talked about the definition of serious criminality and how it is perceived elsewhere. How can we improve this bill for people who are not really criminals? There are also political considerations. How can we improve the definition in order to be fair to people who apply to Canada?

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Djaouida Sellah Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his pertinent question. He is very familiar with my experience as an immigrant. He knows that after arriving in Canada, I had to fight various battles to get to where I am today.

Unfortunately, this bill would send criminals back to their country of origin. Immigrants have the perception that they are stigmatized, and they believe that other people view them as potential criminals. I would like to clarify that for everyone. As I said, when one immigrates, there is work to be done on both sides: 50% by the host country and 50% by the immigrant. Unfortunately, with certain policies, there is no will to integrate these people, only to stigmatize them.

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I listened intently to my colleague's speech. I cannot begin to count the number of characterizations she has used to talk about how we on this side feel about immigrants. We are not talking about stigmatizing immigrants as criminals. That is complete hogwash.

She talked about not politicizing the process. I will ask her a question about people who are non-political but have an opinion on the process, and they are professional opinions. The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the Canadian Police Association and Victims of Violence are among the many organizations that support Bill C-43.

Does the member and her party support the views of these organizations on this legislation, or would they rather politicize the process and not listen to professionals?

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Djaouida Sellah Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, perhaps the member opposite did not listen to the beginning of my speech. I said that the NDP is in favour of a strict and flexible judicial system.

It makes sense. What is written there and what we are talking about are amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. So if we are not talking about immigrants, who are we talking about?

As an immigrant, I am not defending serious criminals. I am defending immigrants. Even if young people commit minor thefts or other similar crimes, we must not give the minister the discretionary power to decide who is a serious or petty criminal, who is a danger to the country, who must not enter or who must leave.