House of Commons Hansard #151 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was immigration.

Topics

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to take this opportunity to pose a question in the hope that the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism might actually be listening to what is happening on his bill inside the chamber, given that it has just been introduced.

I will put this in the form of a question that I tried to get answered by the parliamentary secretary. I will use a specific example. Based on the legislation, in my interpretation of the legislation, if one is a father living in another country, has a child who immigrated to Canada four or five years ago, and now wants to visit that child, he can apply for a visiting visa. If he has another child who is still in his home country and who was involved in organized crime, he will not be given the opportunity to visit his child who immigrated to Canada. That is how I read the legislation.

I ask the hon. member if she believes my interpretation is correct.

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, as we take a look at this bill, that is an area of great concern.

We have always believed that one should not punish other people for crimes committed by someone else. These are the kinds of questions we will be asking at the committee stage, trying to get clarity. These give us a great deal of concern. My colleague is rightfully worried about this.

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, my concern really lies with the concentration of power in the hands of a minister, which is discretionary over the admission of temporary residents. I think back to that particular minister and his record in revoking the admission of George Galloway, which then went through the court in Ontario. The judge came back and castigated the minister for what he had done.

With this kind of power now residing in the hands of the minister, does it mean that, for public policy purposes, he could prevent politicians and journalists he did not like and people of that nature from entering this country?

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, when we look at this bill, this is one of the key areas of concern: so much arbitrary power rests with the minister to declare people inadmissible. Therein lies the rub. What it says is for “public policy” reasons. Public policy is a huge area. What kind of public policy? What aspect of public policy?

Once again, why would we put in the hands of a minister so much power, even over people who can visit, be a tourist in this country? That is what temporary visas are all about; they are given to tourists.

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act
Government Orders

September 24th, 2012 / 12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Clarke Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, having served in the RCMP for over 18 years, I know the challenges the RCMP and any police force face in serving and protecting Canadians, especially in the streets, against the day-to-day activities of criminals.

I am going to ask a very simple question. I hope my colleague from across the floor can answer it. We have heard that the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the Canadian Police Association and Victims of Violence are among many organizations that support Bill C-43.

I am going to ask the hon. member a very clear and simple question. Yes or no, does the hon. member and her party support the views of these organizations on this bill?

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, we absolutely support processes and a judicious way of removal and a very fair, open and transparent way of removing criminals from the country, but at the same time, we want to make sure there is due process and people do get to have their say

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am somewhat disappointed in the fact that the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism was not prepared to introduce the bill, given the fact that prior to coming into the chamber he was at a press conference, which both the NDP critic and I were able to observe, at least in part, and then also participate in, because the minister does not have a problem with appearing at press conferences and talking about this legislation. I guess it is because he wants to send that tough message that is very much anti-immigrant, I would argue. If we want to be fair to all political parties in the chamber, there is very little sympathy for violent repeat offenders who choose to continually break our law, and we too would like to see those individuals deported from our country.

Where we disagree is that we believe we need to treat the more than 1.5 million permanent residents in Canada with a great deal more respect. I was able to watch the minister. In the his backgrounder it says foreign criminals. When we use the word “foreign” we are really talking about permanent residents, but it gives that extra tough talk image by saying foreign criminals. The minister provided five examples in the backgrounder he attached to his press release and indicated the name of Jack Tran as number one. Reference is made to five individuals and they are the top five reasons why we have the bill before us. I would suggest there is a need for us to look at ways in which we can improve the system so we do not have individuals like Jack Tran and Patrick de Florimonte and the other three listed abusing our system.

I agree that we need to deport these individuals and the sooner the better. I emphasize that we have more than 1.5 million permanent residents in Canada, the vast majority of whom are wonderful outstanding citizens of our country. They might not have their actual citizenship today, and the government should take some blame for that because nowadays it takes two years to get citizenship when it should take no more than four to six months. That is an issue for another day, but it emphasizes where the minister has failed in terms of recognizing what is important and what should be the priorities in dealing with issues that immigrants have to face day in and day out.

The vast majority of that 1.5 million plus permanent residents have excellent behaviour and contribute to the well-being of our society both economically and socially. With that large number of people, it would be highly irresponsible for the government or anyone to believe there are not going to be some who fall on the other side of the law, who are going to be offensive. One could argue that many of those who fall on the other side of the law would be fairly reprehensible individuals who may be abusive, may be repeated violators of the law. We recognize that and we want to expedite and get those individuals away from Canada or look at the deportation issue.

That very minute percentage not only upsets me and the Liberal caucus and Canadians as a whole, but we have to deal with them and look at ways in which we can make changes to legislation so we can accommodate them. Let us not tarnish everyone because of that minute number of people.

We need to recognize what this legislation would do, in saying from two years to six months for an appeal. There are all sorts of crimes that it would now take into consideration. They include common assault, fraud under $5,000, theft under $5,000, possession of a stolen property under $5,000, trespassing at night, public mischief, flight from a peace officer. There is a litany of offences.

There is a responsibility, and we under-utilize the citizenship and immigration committee. There are things that the committee could be doing, and maybe we should be looking at and assessing the issue we are trying to deal with today in the form of legislation. It would have been nice for the committee to have dealt with that specifically in the last couple of years so we could provide better legislation that would not have labelled or generalized all permanent residents. Maybe there is a better way in which we could have achieved what the government was hoping to achieve, at least in part, by working together to produce a better piece of legislation.

Thinking it through, what does this legislation mean? A person could be a permanent resident in Canada for 10 months or for 10 years and commit an offence. Focusing attention on 10 years, maybe the person is married with two or three young children, possibly born in Canada. One night that person is at a function or event, maybe a celebration, and drinks too much, ending up in having an assault charge placed against him or her. Quite often assault charges will lead to some form of six-month sentence and that means the individual could be deported. Not the entire family, but just that individual could be deported. Members say, “yes, if he is convicted, yes”. He has been here for 10 or 12 years, has been an outstanding citizen, finds himself in a situation that many Canadians from coast to coast get into and makes an emotional decision. Yes, it is a bad decision but stuff of that nature does happen, I agree. However, with this particular legislation, we would deport.

What the member is recognizing by just his general acknowledgement of the fact is that this individual would be deported. The children who were born here in Canada would be able to stay and the spouse would be able to stay, but he would be deported.

We have to put some things into proper perspective here. I suggest there might have been more room for a number of the changes the government has been acting on, where we get more people involved, more stakeholders including members of opposition parties, in some of the policy discussions prior to bringing in the legislation. I believe there are circumstances when it might be in Canada's best interests that we respect that, out of the more than 1.5 million permanent residents, there could be some incidents that occur in which it is not in the best interests to deport the individual.

This is opposed to taking the extreme, which the minister is so effective at doing, and saying what a terrible individual Jackie Chan is. No one would question that. However, instead of taking the extreme, maybe we should be looking at the majority and recognize that it is out of 1.5 million permanent residents. Canadian society as a whole has a lot of crime committed and there are consequences. No one is denying that there needs to be a consequence to a crime.

The other thing the government wants to do through this proposed legislation is give more power to the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism. It is almost as if he has been neglected over the last while. The Minister of Immigration just wants more and more power. We should remember that the Minister of Immigration is the minister who said that he did not need a world-class advisory body that has human rights professionals to help Canada determine what is or is not a safe country in the world. The Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism feels that he can do it and that Canadians do not need to worry about it. He is also the minister who said that he can identify an irregular arrival from any grouping of two or more people who come to Canada.

Trust me when I say that no one wants to be offside with that particular minister or one can be in a lot of trouble, especially with that kind of designating ability. Now the minister wants to have the responsibility to deny someone outright to come to Canada. I would suggest that there needs to more accountability and checks put in the place for the department of immigration. That is a very important aspect of the bill that needs to be looked at.

I raised the issue of visitor visas for a good reason. I share many of the comments that the New Democrat immigration critic put on the record in regard to a lot of frustration with the visitor visas. There is a great deal of frustration out there. I have brought forward petitions to the House regarding visitor visas and, for whatever reason, the government has been spinning its wheels in dealing with visitor visas.

This is exceptionally frustrating because there are individuals living abroad, parents and siblings, who want to visit family here in Canada for good reasons. Some want to see the environment in which their family members are living. Some may want to participate in wedding celebrations, graduations, family reunions and even funerals. I am always amazed by the sheer number of people I meet through my office and outside as critic for immigration who are trying to see a family member. Members would be surprised by the numbers. One can point to Chandigarh as an example of where I believe there is now about a 51% approval rating. Percentages aside, there are far too many families that are being denied the ability to come to Canada.

Why do I raise that on this particular bill? I posed a question to the parliamentary secretary and asked that the message get to the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism. I have asked the question in two briefings that I have had but I have not been provided an answer as of yet. The question is: What impact would this legislation have on immigration offices around the world in terms of being able to process in a timely fashion visitor visas?

I gave the example of a father to the New Democratic critic for citizenship and immigration and I provided a bit more detail to the parliamentary secretary. I anxiously await what will, hopefully, be a positive answer on that issue.

Unfortunately, however, it looks as though a lot more background work will need to be done. If that is the case, then the government had better be prepared to put in the additional resources so that things can continue to be done in a timely fashion in terms of the granting of visitor visas.

That is not to say that the Liberal Party is not concerned about the individuals who are visiting Canada. We also want to ensure that the individuals who are coming here are of good character, in good health and so forth. We are concerned about this legislation having a significant impact with very little end-of-day results.

The issue of misrepresentation is always a challenging one. I deal with a number of immigration cases. I enjoy doing immigration work. I have done it for many years, both in my capacity as a member of the Manitoba legislature and now as a member of Parliament. I enjoy helping people deal with immigration and the many problems involved in immigration. If there is anyone inside this chamber who believes that misrepresentation does not occur, they are wrong. Now that statement does not necessarily surprise members. However, I suspect that they are underestimating the amount of “misrepresentation” that has actually occurred where individuals have been successful.

Right away, one would say that we should batten down the hatches and get rid of that misrepresentation. However, people need to understand the many different forms of misrepresentation. I would argue that, in some cases, there is almost encouragement to misrepresent from surprising places. I am not just talking about immigration consultants or lawyers. It might even be somewhat surprising when there are implications that it might even involve levels of government that would ultimately lead to some mild form of misrepresentation taking place.

I had an individual who had two children but said that he had only one child when he came here. The reason in this particular case was that the man had a child with another woman and was not prepared to share that with his wife when they put in their application because it had occurred years prior.

I am not going to advocate whatsoever that individuals have the right to misrepresent themselves. There is an obligation, which we need to enforce to the best of our abilities, that people do not misrepresent themselves when they are putting in these applications.

However, I am interested in knowing why the government made the decision to go from two to five years. I have numerous examples that I could share at the committee stage as to why it is that maybe one might want to give some consideration as opposed to an outright ban. I suspect that we would find many Canadians, if not most Canadians, in certain situations, who would be surprised to hear some of the stories with regard to misrepresentation.

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

St. Catharines
Ontario

Conservative

Rick Dykstra Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, what I was hoping to hear from one of our critics was some positive amendments that would strengthen Bill C-43.

I just heard another speech about how much the opposition members have so many other issues that they think are a priority, and that this is not one they want to talk about while the bill is actually being debated in the House of Commons.

At the beginning of his statement, the member said that he had been ambushed by the bill, that this bill came upon him without any knowledge. The member then answered his own question by stating that he had had two full briefings on the bill. The member did acknowledge that he was never ambushed. He has had every opportunity to be briefed by department officials, myself or whoever. If he would like to hear more about the bill, he will get to do that at committee.

However, for the member to suggest that he was ambushed, perhaps he was busy and did not spend a whole lot of time working on the bill. I cannot speak for the member but I know he does a good job for his constituents.

I do want to know one thing from the member. The member is concerned about the jurisdiction the minister would have in terms of being able to say to an individual that he or she is not welcome in Canada and about the minister being granted the authority to do so. I have indicated that it will be stated clearly in the legislation how that will work.

In October 2011, the National Assembly of Quebec passed a unanimous motion demanding that the federal government deny entry into Canada of Abdur Green and Hamza Tzortzis due to their comments encouraging hate and violence against women and homosexuals. Currently, the minister has no jurisdiction to deny or fulfill that request from the assembly. Does the member believe that the minister should or should not have that kind of jurisdiction to be able to deny these types of individuals access to our country?

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I do not know where the member would have gotten the impression that I was surprised that the bill was being debated today. There was no surprise there whatsoever. If he wants to talk about the surprise, that happened back at the end of June in the winding days of the session. It might have been within the last week or the last few days of the session when the minister had a press conference saying that the government would deal with foreign criminals and then listed his top five foreign criminals. That came out of virtually nowhere.

We have had lots of time to look at the bill and, as the member pointed out, I even had the opportunity to have a couple of briefings on the bill itself.

I indicated that I was surprised that the minister himself, representing the government, did not speak first given the fact that we were just outside having a press conference. This speaks to the priorities of the House of Commons versus posturing. That is something that ultimately the minister himself will need to provide comment on and I am sure he will come up with some dandy excuses for us.

In regard to the ministerial power, I do not have the same level of confidence as the parliamentary secretary does with regard to the minister. I believe there needs to be a check put into place to ensure there is more accountability on this particular issue for the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism to be responsible to.

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

NDP

Jamie Nicholls Vaudreuil-Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, this bill relieves the minister of the responsibility to examine humanitarian circumstances that take into account the interests of children involved in potential deportations.

Could the member outline some problems with this approach?

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I tried to pick up on that particular point. There is no doubt that we will see permanent residents who have been living in Canada for maybe 10, 15, 20, 25 years. They should not be criticized. Sometimes there is a valid reason that they were not able to get their citizenship or why they have postponed getting their citizenship but they have families and they contribute to our economy and our social well-being.

However, for whatever reasons, those people sometimes fall on the other side of the law. It could be some sort of an emotional night that takes place at a club or something of that nature that ultimately leads to that person being convicted of something and sentenced to six months or more. In that situation, this legislation would deport the person but the young children and mom would stay here in Canada.

I suspect that the minister could even attempt to justify that, but it is important to know that, in his top five reasons that we have this bill before us, it takes the extreme cases. It does not deal with some of the other more common cases that come before us every so often.

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture

Mr. Speaker, I have been listening to my colleague across the way twist himself out of shape trying to defend the indefensible.

I would like to raise a few points. The first is that being in Canada is a privilege. If a foreign criminal is guilty of a criminal act, the member is advocating that there should be no consequences, that the person should retain the privilege of being in Canada. That is absurd, both to me in the House and Canadians.

If a foreign criminal is responsible for a criminal act here in Canada, who is the victim? Canadians are. The member is advocating that a foreign criminal who commits a criminal act here in Canada and victimizes Canadians should retain the privilege of staying in Canada. How does the member defend that position?

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, if the member wants to have a good, challenging debate on who is tougher on crime, I would welcome that debate with the member. I would even go to his riding if he wanted to have that debate before his constituents. When it comes to being tough on crime, I am prepared to get tough on crime. However, I am also prepared to get tough on preventing crimes from taking place in the first place.

Having said that, here is where we differ somewhat. A permanent resident who has been in Canada for 20 years and is at a celebration, maybe a 15th wedding anniversary, and drinks a bit too much and gets behind the wheel and gets ticketed for drinking and driving is guilty of a criminal offence, which makes him a criminal. According to the member, forget the six months: he is a criminal, deport the guy. That is the attitude of many of the Conservatives. It does not matter if it is the first time he has ever committed an offence, but because he has blown the 0.06 breathalyzer test level, the member is prepared to deport him. What kind of an--

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Trinity--Spadina.

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, since 2000 and 2003, when the Liberal government was in control of the immigration department, the Auditor General has said that the department has had no idea whether people are being deported or not. The department has been unable to track those who are supposed to be deported. The system between the Canada Border Service Agency and Immigration Canada has not been coordinated, the IT or computer systems do not talk to each other, and there has been very little training and therefore no tracking of who has been inadmissible and who has supposed to have left.

Through the years, it looks like the former government has been gone missing in dealing with people who are supposed to be deported and who are inadmissible. What plan does the member have to make the system better?