House of Commons Hansard #205 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was pope.

Topics

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the immigration critic and deputy immigration critic. They are doing excellent work to improve the government's bills. These bills tend to be flawed, and we are not too sure what they are based on.

I would like to ask my colleague from Winnipeg North whether he thinks this bill was based on statistically valid facts that show a need for greater ministerial discretionary powers. Did the government look at how other countries deal with this issue and whether their approaches are successful? I am talking about countries that may have changed their immigration policies.

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, that is a good question, but I do not believe the bill is justified by the 800 the minister now refers to. I never heard about the numbers of permanent residents committing crimes until we actually hit the committee stage. There was no indication that this was going to be an issue until June of last year, when the minister made a huge announcement. I think there was a lot of material missing. It should have been included if I were to say the legislation were well thought out prior to its introduction. I do not believe it was.

I believe this is more a case of the minister wanting to come across as tough on crime more than anything else. One of the victims here is the House of Commons, because we were never really legitimately brought in so that we could become engaged on the issue prior to the introduction of the legislation, let alone the stakeholders and communities from coast to coast to coast. I am sure all Canadians are concerned about it and would have loved the opportunity to participate and provide guidance, which would have made the bill a better piece of legislation.

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, in short, the member is saying that we get a large piece of this legislation. It is understandable that the consequence of committing violent or sexual offences should be that the person has to leave the country.

I ask the member to help me understand this better. Is he telling me that an 18-year-old who has been here since he or she was one years old and never became a Canadian citizen and crosses the border, drinks under age and becomes guilty of that offence, and attracts a fine of $200, should have no appeal after that? That child could be ripped from their family and sent back to some country they have never visited and have no understanding of whatsoever, whose language they do not know, and where they have no family members. Is that what the member is trying to explain?

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, that is a very good question and, sadly, we heard that at committee. A professional came before the committee and made that case. The quote I referred to actually came from the committee. The government has failed to address that issue of someone using false identification.

As the minister tries to make himself look good, it will be achieved at substantial cost because of how far-reaching this legislation is. Many people will have to pay the price of the House passing sloppy legislation. It has gone too far. No one in the Liberal Party is trying to prevent people who have committed serious crimes like rape, murder and so forth from being deported. We are not trying to do that.

Earlier today the minister had another news flash. This time it was that he was going to take away Canadian citizenship from those who have dual citizenship but are deemed to be a terrorist or something of that nature. I might be putting it a little out of context, but that was the news flash. We will find out in tomorrow's new media.

Again, why does the minister not focus on citizenship? We have people who have qualified for citizenship waiting for years. We are not talking about a few; we are talking about hundreds of thousands who have qualified but are still waiting to receive their citizenship. However, because the minister is so negligent in providing the direction and resources necessary, he is missing the point and not doing what he should. He could be doing so much more, whether getting criminals out who should not be in Canada or making sure that people get citizenship in a timely fashion. The minister needs to readjust his priorities.

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Resuming debate. There are about 18 minutes left.

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration.

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act
Government Orders

February 6th, 2013 / 4:55 p.m.

St. Catharines
Ontario

Conservative

Rick Dykstra Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, the only disappointment I have today is that I only have 18 minutes instead of the 30 that would be allocated. I am starting out a little disappointed, but nonetheless the clock is the clock. At 5:15, the bells are going to ring. We are going to come back in the House to vote, and we are going to vote on the very bill we are speaking to this evening. Bill C-43, the faster removal of foreign criminals bill, is going to pass because every person on this side of the House is going to support this piece of legislation. We are going to carry it over at third reading and send it to the Senate.

There is hope and opportunity for our colleagues who sit on the other side of the House to play a role in changing part of our immigration system that should have been changed decades ago. They could support the legislation this evening and see it pass. We could perhaps do what we did with Bill C-11 in the previous Parliament, and pass an immigration bill unanimously that will start the process of refugee reform in this country.

I listened closely to the member for Winnipeg North. He continually says to all of us that he wants to see a stronger piece of legislation, a stronger justice system, that would ensure individuals who commit serious crimes and are not Canadian citizens are not allowed to stay in our country once they have served their time in jail.

The member liked listening to some of the witness at committee because they indicated they supported his perspective. One of our witnesses, Ms. Rosenfeldt, provided a passionate and detailed and descriptive understanding of why the bill should pass. The member's favourite piece to talk about is the trafficking of marijuana and how we could ever think that anyone who grows six plants would be trafficking. Ms. Rosenfeldt gave us a detailed description of how much trafficking an individual could do with that much marijuana. Nonetheless, the member for Winnipeg North was not prepared to listen then, and unfortunately it sounds like he and his party are not prepared to listen today.

We promised in our platform during the election in May 2011 that we would implement this piece of legislation. The minister committed to doing the same shortly after the election. We introduced the legislation in the House prior to the summer.

It was interesting to hear the immigration critics for the NDP and the Liberal Party ask at the time the minister deposited the bill why he was doing it, as there would be no time to study it before the House was going to break for the summer. Now we are ready to vote at third reading this evening, and both of them claim they did not have enough time, that we did not provide the number of hours necessary to understand the bill or do enough detailed research. The reason the legislation was introduced prior to the summer was to give them the opportunity to read the legislation. We offered briefings from ministry officials and a detailed analysis of what the bill would mean. We were more than prepared to give them time to sit down with the ministry and have a better opportunity to understand the bill.

The NDP supported the bill at second reading. We brought it to committee, where members had the opportunity to study it. Instead of saying we have two hours on Tuesday or two hours on Thursday, or maybe we will spend 8 hours studying the bill, we asked the opposition how much time it would like and how many witnesses it would like to bring forward.

We asked the opposition what we could do to ensure they had every bit of knowledge they thought they would need to move the legislation forward, and as I heard my colleague from the NDP mention this afternoon, to try to work together, not sitting on the other side of the House voting against this piece of legislation. All of that effort, the work, the information that was provided, and all of the analysis and detail the minister brought forward to the committee at any time he was asked to come, seems to not have been necessary for the opposition, because they have stood here today and said they are going to vote against it.

I am glad the member for Winnipeg North instructed us to listen to what the individuals said who came as witnesses to committee. I mentioned Sharon Rosenfeldt, who is the chair of Victims of Violence, and the comments she made about the bill. She also said:

Cutting short foreign criminals' opportunity for lengthy appeals will go a long way in minimizing and preventing the re-victimization of those innocent Canadians who are the victims of foreign offenders.

We are not the only ones saying this. When Ms. Rosenfeldt said this, it led me to think, and we brought together the information regarding all of the appeals that have been filed. I mentioned it when we were speaking at report stage, but it bears repeating. In 2007, at the Immigration Appeal Division, we had 830 appeals. In 2008, we had 954 appeals; in 2009, 1,086 appeals; in 2010, 849; and in 2011, there were 564 appeals. On average, since 2007, there have been over 850 appeals annually to the Immigration Appeal Division from serious criminals trying to delay their deportation.

When we look at the numbers and see the abuse that has taken place, we see a number of individuals and the cases, which have been cited time and time again by members of the government when speaking to the bill, of those who have taken advantage of that appeal process. They actually have a system here in Canada that they can take advantage of.

Tonight the NDP and the Liberal Party have the opportunity to play a role in getting rid of a system that is fraught with abuse, that is being taken advantage of. It has seen countless individuals not only stop their deportation from happening because of the appeal system that is in place but actually become repeat offenders.

When Ms. Rosenfeldt speaks of Canadians becoming further victimized, it is up to us, as a government, to ensure we take action. We have invested hours on the bill in the House of Commons, and at committee with our witnesses and all of the detailed discussion we had during clause-by-clause, and we have spent a lot of time going over each and every amendment. The government did not support amendments brought forward that were going to weaken the bill, but we certainly allowed for the discussion to happen so we could listen to what was being presented. We did in fact accept one amendment, and I appreciate the member for Winnipeg North acknowledging that there was a strengthening of the bill.

At the end of the day, it is our responsibility to act on behalf of victims. It is our responsibility to act. Other countries have surpassed us in terms of timing with regard to this legislation and have moved much further down the road.

We have a partnership with, and we belong, to the Five Country Conference: the U.K., the United States, Australia and New Zealand. They have all acted on these issues. Misrepresentation was one issue. We are the only country that has not acted in a measurable way on these issues.

We stand here today at third reading to say not only are the government and those who sit on this side of the House going to support the legislation, we can actually see if members of the opposition are going to support it this evening. There are a number of other countries that have moved much quicker than this country has and in a much more aggressive way than we have.

The bill, when members look at the detail and where it stands, has three principle parts. The first makes it easier for the government to remove dangerous foreign criminals from our country. The second makes it harder for those who may pose a risk to Canada to enter the country in the first place, and the third removes barriers for genuine visitors who want to come to Canada. We have done a lot of speaking, defending and promoting of the first two parts, which make it easier for government to remove dangerous foreign criminals from our country and make it harder for those who pose a risk to Canada to enter the country in the first place.

One point that I want to highlight is the removing of barriers for genuine visitors who want to come to Canada. The Minister of Public Safety and his ministry plays a role in the legislation as well. We do not need to look much further than section 42, which will actually make it easier for low-risk foreign nationals travelling with their families, who would like to come to Canada on a temporary basis, to become admissible here.

For example, a parent who is inadmissible on health grounds would remain inadmissible and require a temporary resident permit to visit Canada, but the remaining family members would now be admissible. Therefore, we are opening the door to say that, on a temporary basis, they can visit the country. They have a family member who is inadmissible and that family member would have to remain inadmissible, but for the relatives of that family member, there is an opportunity. Currently, they are inadmissible. Under Bill C-43, they would be admissible to Canada.

Further, inadmissible persons seeking ministerial relief would have to submit a formal application. The minister's authority to grant relief on his or her own initiative without a formal application will be explicitly spelled out. For example, the minister could use this explicit authority to facilitate the entry of a head of state who would otherwise be found inadmissible, if the minister was satisfied that the decision was not contrary to national interests.

While I have heard the speakers today and I have heard the members of the committee from the NDP and Liberal Party proclaim that the legislation focuses on those who are criminals who will be removed from our country, who are not citizens, who are permanent residents who have come here. The opposition members have not once stood up to talk about the fact that the legislation actually does allow for the easier transfer of family members who may have a relative who is inadmissible. It would allow them to actually come here to Canada.

A number of people, including the member for Winnipeg North, mentioned the fact that we had witnesses, and that we should have heard and listened to them. Ravi Jain, who is an immigration lawyer, was quoted. When he was asked about this issue, he said:

If you're coming to Canada and you happen to have relatives with you, dependents with you, and if you're inadmissible, but for minor reasons, like you know, maybe some criminality, but not really overly serious, but not organized criminality, or if it's health grounds or some other, you know, misrepresentation or other kinds of grounds, and you're coming, you have special permit to overcome that inadmissibility, then you're no longer going to render your dependents inadmissible at the same time, because right now if you're coming with someone who's inadmissible, if you're the wife or kids or whatever, then you're automatically inadmissible.

Those in opposition to the bill have stated that they have immigration lawyers who have said to them that the bill goes too far. It is great to hear from immigration lawyers who have done their homework and understand the legislation.

The third most important part of the bill, which is recognized by Mr. Jain, is that when an individual is not allowed to come into the country, his or her family at least will be in the position come into the country, when it is a minor offence or an issue of health. Both the Minister Citizenship and Immigration and the Minister of Public Safety will have some latitude in terms of their ability to allow those family members into the country. It did not happen before, but it will happen now.

I want to conclude by thanking all of those from the government side who sit on the immigration committee. We have worked on two very significant pieces of legislation, Bill C-31 and now Bill C-43. One of the most difficult things to do is to ensure one does justice to the legislation as it moves forward.

I can say, and I have not heard in respect to my colleagues on the other side of the House, this about their complaint about this government or committee's ability to give enough time to research, work and move forward on legislation. I thank all the members of the committee who did a tremendous job, including the chairman, who every once in a while even has to call me to order. I know that is hard to believe. We do on occasion certainly enjoy the hard work for us to move forward. It is important to recognize that both members of our committee and those who sit on the opposition benches, regardless of position, have put countless and tireless hours in moving this legislation forward.

This legislation is good for Canada. It will improve the view people from around the world have about how Canada treats those who come here for the purposes of permanent residency and who are in fact criminals.

We are now in a position where the legislation would allow us to do what so many other countries are doing, and that is to ensure we have a fast, strong process that removes foreign criminals from our country.

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

It being 5:15 p.m., pursuant to an order made Wednesday, January 30, 2013, it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith all questions necessary to dispose of the third reading stage of the bill now before the House.

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

All those in favour will please say yea.

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

All those opposed will please say nay.

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #612

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act
Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

I declare the motion carried.

(Bill read the third time and passed)