House of Commons Hansard #199 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was immigration.

Topics

Motions in amendment
Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Roxanne James Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am a bit concerned that the member suggests we should use our energy in other areas. The responsibility of any government is the safety and security of its citizens. I personally believe as a Conservative member of Parliament that any legislation we put forward that would do just that is not a waste of time.

With respect to the member's comments regarding the six-month period, I remind the House that a six-month sentence is not going to be for some minor misdemeanour. It is for a serious crime. We had witness after witness testify to that effect. I will leave it on the table that six months is justifiable for serious crimes and that this government will continue to focus on the safety and security of our citizens.

Motions in amendment
Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I do not know whether I am more offended by the fact that the hon. member for Scarborough Centre continues to attack the Liberals and the New Democrats and leaves out the Green Party, because most of these amendments were put forward by the Green Party, or that she thinks the purpose of the amendments is simply to waste time in some sort of political game.

The amendments I put forward are substantive, detailed, precise. They go toward creating balance of probability considerations for a minister to consider. They go toward providing more criteria around the minister's discretion.

Nowhere could anyone read my amendments and think that the goal was to keep dangerous foreign criminals in Canada. Also, the assertion, which I am sure she did not write herself but came from the PMO in some talking point, that people on this side of the House do not care about victims, is deeply offensive.

Motions in amendment
Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Roxanne James Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I apologize to the member opposite if I missed the Green Party in my speech. Unfortunately, as the member knows, the Green Party does not have official status in this House, having only one seat, and is not actually a member of the immigration committee.

Having said that, I would like to point out that this particular legislation actually goes to three different directions. It makes it easier for the government to remove dangerous foreign criminals. It makes it harder for those who pose a risk to Canada to enter Canada. Importantly, a point which is left out of a lot of the questions asked by the opposition, including the party of the one person in the corner, is it actually removes the barriers for genuine visitors who want to come to Canada and expedites that process. That is important also to note.

Motions in amendment
Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise in the House and speak on behalf of my constituents in the riding of Davenport, in the great city of Toronto. This issue is one of grave concern to many people in Toronto. It is an issue that strikes at the core of families in our cities.

There seems to be some confusion on the other side that somehow we on this side are not in favour of a system that really deals with violent criminals who are not Canadian citizens. That is just a fabrication. If the Conservatives want to speak about partisan politics, that is partisan politics at its worst because it is a gross mischaracterization.

I want to talk a bit about two stories that are very close to me. These people both come from my riding. I had a call from a very distraught mother whose 14-year-old was violently assaulted, in fact so much so that this young person will need a couple of years to recuperate. Those who were arrested for the crime were not Canadian citizens. The mother was in pieces, as anyone could understand a parent to be. She wanted to know how this could happen to her child on the streets of Toronto, which by the way are generally safe streets.

It brings to mind the fact that if the government is serious about dealing with violent criminals, then how can it justify the cuts that it has made, for example to border services? In the 2012 budget there were cuts of $143 million to the Canadian Border Services Agency.

The bulk of guns, for example, that are used in violent crimes in the city of Toronto are illegal guns, smuggled in from the United States. What does the government do? Instead of protecting Canadian citizens and communities, the child or the mother who phoned me last week, it has cut at the very spot where we actually need more protection and security. We need more thorough checks because it is easy to smuggle in a gun, evidently, because we are awash in them and the government has systematically cut the very agency that we need.

When we talk about Bill C-43, we heard time and time again from stakeholders, who held a variety of opinions on this issue, that the most important thing was to deal with the system we had and make it more efficient. The government has a lot to answer for to the woman in my riding. This legislation is not the answer. This is cold comfort for my constituent and her child.

This is part of the reason why we on our side rejected this. We presented balanced, prudent, moderate amendments to the bill that would have dealt with the very thing that my constituent called me about, which was a regime that was more efficient in dealing with violent criminals who were not Canadian citizens.

That is one story that came to me over the course of the break.

The other story came earlier. It was from a parent who came into my office extremely concerned because her child had been picked up by the police in what sounded like a random pickup. This was a young person, a racialized youth from an immigrant community and a newcomer to Canada. The family was just getting a foothold in our country. This young person was extremely scared and acted a little inappropriately. These things happen with young people from time to time. Mistakes are made.

The concern that the parent had was that if the son was sent back to the home country, there would be nobody there for him. If he was troubled, he needed the support of his family. I think that is something everyone in this place would agree with, that for young people in trouble one of the biggest issues is family support.

This person came to me with a real concern. It is a concern that our party shares. We are concerned about the broad sweep of the bill. We are concerned about the fact that more and more power is being requested by the minister.

This is a government with ministers who do not have a great record of the kind of behaviour that would make Canadians feel secure and safe in giving them even more power and less accountability and transparency. We have a minister who writes a letter to the CRTC, another minister who has overspent in his election and another who likes to take helicopter joyrides. There is a laundry list of transgressions by ministers on that side.

Now we have legislation, and this is not the first one, where the minister is trying to gather more and more power for himself or his office, with less and less accountability. We have heard from stakeholders who hold a variety of views on this issue. They have raised those concerns and they are legitimate ones.

When we talk about public safety, we have to underscore that the government's actions undermine public safety. They undermine communities' desires to be safe and secure in their communities.

The Conservatives are saying that cuts to border services do not have any impact on front-line services at the border where guns do come across. It is wishful thinking. We know from the Customs and Immigration Union that over 300 jobs on the front line of border crossings will be cut. A lot of them are happening in the GTA. We have a multicultural community and many newcomers.

Let us be clear. The government is speaking as though newcomers to Canada are some kind of troublesome thing for Canadian society. The bulk of newcomers to Canada are peaceful, peace-loving, hard-working, positive additions to the Canadian family. We should be proud of this and we should embrace that fact.

We should be looking for ways to support them, to support their families, to support family reunification and not to pick out a very small important sector of Canadian society that does commit violent crime. We should think more about those families that really need the support so they can get the firm footing in Canadian society that we promise them. That is the most important thing.

Motions in amendment
Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Calgary Southeast
Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney Minister of Citizenship

Mr. Speaker, I find this confusion the NDP has between serious convicted foreign criminals and normal law-abiding permanent residents completely bizarre. I find that those people in our country who most eagerly want us to deport more quickly convicted foreign criminals are typically new Canadians. They have come here to pursue a life of opportunity in a safe and peaceful society and have zero tolerance for those who have come here and violated the only thing that we require a permanent resident to stay, which is not to commit a serious criminal offence. That is why I announced the policy now found in the bill during the last election as a platform item in Vancouver's Chinatown in front of the ethnocultural media precisely because new Canadians had asked us to more quickly remove from Canada the small number of people in their communities who were creating havoc.

When Jackie Tran was delaying deportation and his criminal gang were shooting people in Calgary, it was typically other Canadians of Vietnamese origin. New Canadians are disproportionately the victims of this kind of crime.

Does the member believe we should deport from Canada foreign nationals who are convicted of a crime with a custodial sentence of six months or more?

Motions in amendment
Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, we on this side agree that non-citizens who commit serious crimes in Canada should be dealt with quickly. We have to understand that the examples the minister just gave were of individuals who had sentences of more than two years. Therefore, the measures he is referring to are not necessarily contained here anyway.

There is no question on this side of the House that we need to deal with violent criminals. The issue is the broad sweep of the bill. If the government were actually serious about working with the opposition, we tabled nine prudent, measured amendments to the bill that would have dealt with some of these issues that the minister referred to, but it rejected these out of hand and so here we are.

Motions in amendment
Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, would the member provide further comment in regard to the minister who likes to stand on a pedestal from coast to coast to coast and label and generalize. Now we are talking about foreign criminals trying to give the impression that permanent residents in Canada are bad people or there is a good percentage of bad people out there who are foreigners and we have to get them out of our country as soon as possible.

We have over 1.5 million permanent residents living in Canada, the vast majority of whom are excellent residents and for whatever reasons they do not get citizenship. At the end of the day we are talking about a very small percentage. The minister, through labelling, puts a negative image on a much larger number of residents in Canada. Would the member comment on that point?

Motions in amendment
Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

NDP

Andrew Cash Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, the issue of new Canadians and newcomers to our country is one that is a completely simplified issue and the government loves to paint things in very simple lines. The fact is it not simple. We have families that come to our country and they contribute greatly. The newcomers of today are the excellent citizens of Canada tomorrow. This is the history of our country.

With the rhetoric that constantly comes from the other side, one would think that new Canadian communities were a hotbed of criminal activity. It is just not the case. We have to deal with violent crime and violent criminals. The bill overreaches, oversteps and most experts share that opinion.

Motions in amendment
Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Conservative

Devinder Shory Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to debate Bill C-43. If passed, the faster removal of foreign criminals act will go a long way toward ensuring the safety and security of Canadians, and for that, I wholeheartedly support it.

Unfortunately, the opposition has put forward several amendments that would essentially gut the bill and prevent it from becoming the law. In other words, the NDP and Liberals are trying to prevent us from protecting the safety and security of Canadian families.

Canada's immigration system is rightly regarded to be among the most open and generous in the world. Immigration has always been a sustaining feature of Canada's history, and continues to play an important role in building our country. In fact, our Conservative government has welcomed the highest sustained levels of immigration in Canadian history.

Our immigration system works really well, but it is not perfect. No system is, but with Bill C-43 we are taking action to correct one glaring problem afflicting our immigration system.

We see time and time again that foreign criminals who have committed serious crimes on our soil are able to endlessly delay their deportation by using an avenue of appeal that exists under the current law. There are many examples of convicted foreign criminals who have abused our generosity and tested our patience by drawing out their removal process via this avenue. They include fraudsters, drug traffickers, rapists and child abusers, some of the worst people humanity has to offer.

Take the case of Cesar Guzman, who was issued a deportation order after being convicted of sexually assaulting a senior citizen. As Nadia Moharib reported in the Calgary Sun, his victim was an 87-year-old woman at a senior care facility where he was employed. Despite the seriousness of his loathsome and sickening crime, this sexual predator, a man who preyed on and violated one of the most vulnerable members of our society, was sentenced to only 18 months in prison.

To make matters worse, the short length of that sentence allowed this sex offender to appeal his deportation order. This man should have been sent packing back to Peru as soon as he walked out the prison gate after serving his sentence, but because of the avenue of appeal that opened for him, the removal process ended up dragging on for years. Having initially been ordered deported in May 2007, Mr. Guzman was not removed from Canada until April 2011, amounting to nearly four years of delay.

Canadians can be forgiven for seething with rage when they hear the details of this disturbing case. The bottom line is that this man should never have had the opportunity to appeal his deportation in the first place.

Currently, a permanent resident or foreign national may be ordered deported if they could receive a maximum sentence in Canada of at least 10 years for their crime, or if they receive an actual sentence of more than six months.

The problem is that under the current system, as long as their sentence is less than two years, a permanent resident can appeal their deportation order to the Immigration Appeal Division at the Immigration and Refugee Board. If they lose their appeal at the IAD, they may then apply for leave and judicial review of that decision at the Federal Court, and on it can go from there.

As a result, serious foreign criminals are often able to delay deportation from Canada for many months, even years on end. In all this time, while their victims suffer, they are free to walk on the street. What is worse is that many of these convicted criminals have gone on to re-offend while they are in Canada, endangering Canadians and making a mockery of our laws.

With Bill C-43, we want to send a clear message to foreign criminals. If they commit a serious crime in Canada, they will get their day in court, but they will then be sent packing as quickly as possible. Under Bill C-43, any permanent resident who receives a sentence in Canada of six months or more would no longer be able to appeal their deportation to the IAD. Also, those who have committed serious crimes outside Canada will be barred from accessing the Immigration Appeal Division. In addition, those who are inadmissible on the most serious grounds, such as organized crime or war crimes, would no longer have access to a program that is meant for exceptional cases deserving of humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

Yet another key change would give the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism a new authority to deny entry in exceptional cases to the foreign nationals who give rise to public concern, such as individuals who encourage or incite hatred likely to lead to violence. This would close a loophole in our current system whereby certain foreigners who are not admissible to Canada are admissible even though they might represent a risk to us. Those foreigners may, for example, have a long track record of promoting hatred and inciting violence against vulnerable groups.

Individuals with immediate family members who are inadmissible on grounds of security, human or international rights violations, or organized criminality would also be barred from visiting Canada under Bill C-43, even if they are travelling alone. That being said, we would facilitate the visits of those individuals with immediate family members who are inadmissible on less serious grounds, such as health.

The government is committed to the safety and security of Canadians and Bill C-43 is a strong expression of that commitment. Indeed, the proposed changes in this legislation would increase our ability to protect Canadians from criminals and security threats, including newcomers who have come here to find peace and build a new life. At the same time, we would also strengthen our immigration program and facilitate entry for some low-risk visitors. These tough but fair measures would ensure that foreign criminals are not allowed to abuse our generosity endlessly.

I hope that my hon. colleagues in the NDP and Liberal parties will stop opposing this bill and join us in supporting Bill C-43 and help make these measures a reality.

Motions in amendment
Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, in my constituency of Surrey North, there are many Canadians waiting to be reunited with family members abroad. Under the present Conservative government, that lineup has gotten longer and longer. Not only that, but there are also qualified individuals here who have come from different countries whom the government has failed to help find appropriate jobs.

Why is my colleague demonizing immigrants instead of focusing on improving the broken immigration system that is in place?

Motions in amendment
Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Devinder Shory Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thought the member for Surrey North would be asking a question on Bill C-43.

However, as he has asked about visa issues, my colleague should know that this government has brought in the maximum number of immigrants into Canada. This is the government that has been trying to fix the broken immigration system put in place by the previous government. This is the government that has issued the maximum number of visas. For example, in Chandigarh, the rate was 32%, but now it is above 50%. The member should know better.

Motions in amendment
Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member listens to the minister's propaganda a little too much.

It was the Liberals who established the office in Chandigarh. It was the Liberals who created the nominee program that has allowed the current government to hit the immigration numbers it is hitting. At the end of the day, we do not mind sharing our successful programs with the Conservatives, but we do take exception when they mess up on legislation. This is one of those cases. A specific example of that within Bill C-43 deals with misrepresentation.

I am sure the member is aware of unintentional misrepresentation, which occurs by accident or through a bad immigration consultant or lawyer, and a mistake is made on the application. Through Bill C-43, the government would increase the wait time from two years to five years, which seems very harsh when many innocent mistakes are made when filling out an application. That is why we have the term “unintentional misrepresentation” for issues such as immigration lawyers who give bad advice. However, with Bill C-43, there seems to be a fairly heavy consequence for this.

Why would the government not be open to an amendment that would keep the wait time at two years as opposed to five years, especially where it is proven that an unintentional mistake was made?

Motions in amendment
Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Devinder Shory Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Winnipeg North should know, first of all, that I am an immigrant. The vast majority of immigrants who come to this country want to work hard and play by the rules. They value Canada and seek to be productive members of our great nation.

Those who would come to this country and break our laws and victimize our fellow Canadians do not deserve a break. That is my belief, and I deal with immigrants on a day-to-day basis in my riding, because mine is one of the most multicultural ridings in Canada.

Motions in amendment
Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Marc-André Morin Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-43 is problematic. In fact, the title is the only thing that makes any sense and the only thing we all agree on. The thing that offends me the most is that the Conservatives are accusing us of trying to protect criminals and stonewalling the bill. Clearly, it will be impossible to have any kind of reasonable, intelligent debate as long as the other side of the House continues to use abusive language and give such extreme examples. They describe all kinds of horrible things for weeks, but that will do absolutely nothing to advance the debate.

I occasionally meet people in my riding who came to Canada as immigrants or refugees. They tell me that what bothers and offends them the most is to see powerful people, people with tremendous resources, who manage to beat the system and come to Canada with certain privileges. Those people are the hardest to deport in many cases. The sluggishness and inefficiency of the whole immigration system really bothers many of these people when they want to bring the rest of their family to Canada.

It makes me laugh to hear the Liberals and Conservatives argue about this, since the system's inefficiencies go back about 100 years. Both parties have been equally incompetent ever since the system was first created.

When the Conservatives decide to fix something, they always take aim at whatever is not broken. For example, although there are problems with border security and delays in processing immigration files, they find it easier to attack a very small number of people with unpronounceable surnames. They ask them to talk about all the horrible and repugnant things they have done in order to maintain a sort of fear in society. That is what they do. They put all their energy into that, instead of thinking about the issue and having an intelligent discussion with people who, like us, are actually trying to protect citizens from a minority of people with bad intentions who really represent a threat to our society.

The Conservatives are repeating all the mistakes made by Australia. This is nothing new and it is not insignificant. Canada's treatment of aboriginal peoples is based on the Australian model, which turned out to be horrible. Australians apologized and continue to work on fixing the damage they caused. More recently, they reformed their immigration system and made terrible mistakes, which they are now correcting.

Now we are implementing their model. I do not understand where the Conservatives look for their ideas. That is the danger with all extreme positions. There is no room for reflection in extremism. They only know how to be derisive instead of thinking things through. In the long run, they will destroy our country and its reputation. This is going nowhere.

The Conservatives accuse us of not wanting to collaborate or make constructive comments. However, every time they open their mouths, they accuse us of being criminals.

Motions in amendment
Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Calgary Southeast
Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney Minister of Citizenship

That is odd, Mr. Speaker. The member just said that we are destroying the country because we want to expedite the deportation of dangerous foreign criminals. That is something else.

My question is very simple. Does the member agree that we should remove foreigners from this country if they have been found guilty in a Canadian criminal court and have been given a sentence of six months or more?

Does he believe that it is acceptable to delay deportation of these criminals for years, or does he believe that we should remove them as quickly as possible to keep our communities safe?