moved that Bill C-43, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, be read the third time and passed.
Mr. Speaker, thank you very much for giving me one last opportunity to talk about Bill C-43, an important bill that will enable us to keep our communities safer.
This bill was part of the Conservative Party's election platform during the most recent election. It will improve our immigration system by speeding up removal of foreign criminals.
I have already had a chance to summarize the essence, the key features of this bill. However, during recent debates in the House, some MPs have raised some concerns about the bill and have criticized it. I would like to use my 20 minutes to respond to all of those concerns and criticisms.
Rather than reviewing the bill in the way I did at second reading and at report stage, I think it would be more profitable for the House if I respond to individual criticisms made by members in the debate, particularly at report stage in the House.
First, I will go through the points that I have heard raised in no particular order. One of the criticisms suggested that the bill will divide families, causing emotional and financial damage, especially for children whose parents would be removed from the country as a result of the bill.
I remind members that under the current provisions of the Immigration Act, a foreign national who is given a custodial sentence by a Canadian criminal court of six months or longer is criminally inadmissible to Canada and a deportation order is issued for them. They have lost the right, the privilege, of living in Canada by virtue of their serious criminal activity and the finding of a Canadian court in that respect. That was not a decision made by the government, by law-abiding citizens or by the Minister of Immigration. The decision to commit a serious criminal act is the decision of the criminal, who must be held responsible for his act.
When Canada has opened the doors of generosity and opportunity to a foreign national, essentially all we ask to maintain that privilege in perpetuity is that they live in Canada for two out of five years as a permanent resident or become a citizen or simply do not commit a serious criminal act. To suggest that the government would somehow be responsible for “dividing family members” if a serious foreign criminal is removed is perverse. The decision to become inadmissible, to be deported, is a decision the criminal has taken by virtue of his act, a decision that has been confirmed following due process by a Canadian court of law.
Should that permanent resident being removed following deportation have family members in Canada, they are not required to stay here. They are welcome to go back to their country. The notion that Canada is dividing a family is absurd. There is a certain, I would call it, soft bigotry implicit in the attitude that people can only stay in Canada and they cannot go back to any other country in the world with their family members. How condescending to suggest that people cannot pursue fulfilling lives in other countries around the world. I reject that categorically. I say that if people commit serious crimes, they have lost the privilege of staying in Canada as a permanent resident.
Second, we hear from members of the opposition, and this is one of the more hysterical arguments from the member for Winnipeg North, that the government is somehow characterizing hundreds of thousands of permanent residents as criminals with the bill, when the exact inverse is true. The vast majority of immigrants whom we welcome as permanent residents are law-abiding people, who would never dream of committing a serious crime and who expect that those who do should lose the privilege of staying in Canada.
As a government, every year on average we admit 257,000 permanent residents. It is the highest sustained level of immigration in Canadian history and the highest per capita levels of immigration in the developed world, adding almost 0.8% to our population per year. That is 260,000 permanent residents.
However, over the past five years we see on average about 800 permanent residents per year who commit serious violent crimes that carry penal sentences of six months or more. In 2010, it was 849; in 2009, 1,086; in 2011, 564. It is about 800 on average. That is a tiny fraction of a per cent of the number of permanent residents in Canada. At any given time we have about 700,000 to 800,000 permanent residents, so about one-tenth of a per cent actually commit serious crimes. Therefore, to suggest that the bill has a general application to all or most permanent residents is perverse. To the contrary, it focuses only on the tiny minority who commit serious crimes.
Let me then follow up on the argument of the opposition that the bar for the accelerated removal of foreign criminals is too low. I am told by the member for Winnipeg North that if a teenager is caught growing six marijuana plants he or she would be removed from Canada. That is ridiculous. The relevant criminal offence is possession of narcotics with the intention of trafficking. The member also gave the bizarre hypothetical scenario that a foreign teenager travelling to the United States and acquiring illegal ID to buy a drink at a bar when he or she is under age would somehow be deported from Canada.
I will say this. I was an opposition critic and I know it is difficult. There is a lot of legislation and it is often complex material. However, I at least made an effort to familiarize myself with the bills that I was responsible for debating. I would read the bill and the relevant research notes. I would commend that practice to the member for Winnipeg North. He might find his interventions in the debate taken somewhat more seriously if he actually bothered to read the legislation, because section 24 of C-43 states:
For the purpose of subsection (1), serious criminality must be with respect to a crime that was punished in Canada by a term of imprisonment of at least six months or that is described in paragraph 36....
It states “punished in Canada”. Being arrested for a misdemeanour in the United States, such as buying alcohol under age as a minor, is not being punished in Canada and it is certainly not punishable in Canada by a term of six months or more.
I do not know why the member and the Liberal Party in particular keep diminishing the severity of the crimes that would be affected by the six-month bar in Bill C-43, which by the way already exists in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act as the benchmark for serious criminality leading to a deportation order. In 2010-11, custodial sentences were imposed in about one-third of guilty adult criminal court cases completed, similar to the proportion seen over the past decade. In 2010-11, the majority, 86%, of all sentences to custody were relatively short, at six months or less. Only about 10% of custodial sentences were sentenced to a period of six months to two years less a day, and 4% received a sentence of two or more years.
The crimes that would be affected by the bill by removing the IAD appeal, which is used as a delay tactic for deportation, would be those sentenced to six months or two years less a day, that is, 10% of custodial sentences. Again, only 33% of criminal convictions lead to a custodial sentence. We are talking about 10% of the most serious crimes committed in Canada. In fact, it is even less than that. It is the 10% of those that get custodial sentences, so we are talking about the most serious crimes.
The opposition keeps trying to pretend that the benchmark is low, but in fact in the real criminal justice world, the sorts of crimes that are committed by foreign nationals that we are seeking to address in the bill include: assault with a weapon, carrying a sentence of 13 months in jail in one case, two years less a day in another; the possession of a schedule 1 substance for the purposes of trafficking, two years less a day; sexual assault, 18 months in jail in one case; break and enter, including possession of tools for breaking and entering and theft, 13 months; robbery, 18 months in jail; multiple counts of forgery, et cetera.
We are talking about serious crimes and I have repeatedly referenced the cases of Vietnamese gangster, Jackie Tran; the Guyanese criminal, Patrick De Florimonte; the Romanian fraudster responsible for forgery and conspiracy to commit fraud, Gheorghe Capra; Cesar Guzman from Peru, who sexually assaulted a senior citizen. The Liberals would allow that man to still access an IAD appeal and delay his removal by four years. Then there is the case of the assault with a weapon, drug possession, drug trafficking and failure to comply with court orders of Jeyachandran Balasubramaniam, who managed to delay his deportation for seven years.
Canadians do not think that is acceptable. To the Liberals, sexually assaulting a senior apparently is not a serious crime. That is explicitly their position on the bill, that it is not a serious crime and that a foreign national who has raped a senior citizen should be able to delay his deportation. We respectfully disagree. We suggest that the moment the penal sentence is done, in this case that of Mr. Guzman, the person should be taken in a paddy wagon from prison to the plane and removed from Canada because they have lost the right to be here.
The opposition also says that the bill strips due process away from the accused. Again, that could only be said by people who have not read the bill. The people affected by losing the IAD appeal in the bill have already received all of the natural justice and due process available in the Canadian criminal justice system, fully compliant with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. They have an appeal right. They can appeal their criminal conviction. They can appeal their penal sentence. All we are saying is that once Canada's fair criminal justice system has decided they are a serious criminal, they should not be able to appeal their deportation order because they have abused the privilege of staying in Canada.
The member for Winnipeg North keeps suggesting that one case we raised, that of Clinton Gayle, is not relevant to the bill. Clinton Gayle was a Jamaican criminal, a repeat criminal, who, after years of avoiding deportation, murdered Toronto police constable Todd Baylis and shot another police officer.
Let me be clear: On November 6, 1989, Clinton Gayle was convicted of the offence of possession of a narcotic for the purpose of trafficking. He was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of two years less one day. Those are the kinds of sentences that have led to the IAD appeals. Often courts have given sentences of two years less a day specifically to give access to IAD appeals. Indeed, Mr. Gayle used that loophole and on March 1, 1991, the deportation order was filed against him and on that same day he filed an appeal against the decision. It took 16 months, until June 29, 1992, for the Immigration Appeal Division of the IRB to dismiss the appeal of his deportation order.
It is true that after 1992, through incompetence on the part of law enforcement agencies, he was not removed. He ought to have been removed. However, here is the point. If Bill C-43 had been in place back in 1991-1992, the paddy wagon would have gone to the prison on the last day of Mr. Gayle's custodial sentence, put him in the back and taken him to Lester B. Pearson Airport and put him on a plane back to Jamaica. He would never have been allowed to get out on our streets in the first place and Todd Baylis would be alive today.
Yes, he ought to have been removed in 1992, but he never should have been able to delay his deportation in the first place. That is the point. That is why the Canadian Association of Police supports Bill C-43. It is why the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police endorses the faster removal of foreign criminals act.
It is also why victim advocacy groups support this bill.
Here is a lovely one from the opposition. We heard them quote Amnesty International and the Canadian Bar Association expressing concern that the bill would no longer allow access to applications for permanent residency on humanitarian and compassionate grounds for people who have been found to be involved in war crimes, crimes against humanity, serious human rights violations and organized criminality.
We are so generous, some would say generous to a fault, in our country that even many of these people have had access to our asylum system and that all of them benefit from what is called a pre-removal risk assessment prior to being removed. Everyone, even the most objectionable terrorists and organized criminals, gets some form of independent legal assessment on whether or not they would face risk if returned to the country of their nationality. That is how we discharge our responsibility under the convention against torture, the 1951 refugee convention and, indeed, the Charter of Rights.
We have an obligation not to remove foreigners whose safety could be at risk if they are deported.
We have a process for this. However, the humanitarian and compassionate process is in addition to the pre-removal risk assessment and in addition to the asylum process.
Only the NDP and Liberals could suggest that a member of the mafia, that someone involved in serious human rights violations--
Consider Léon Mugesera, a Rwandan national responsible for genocide in his country. According to our legal system and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, Mr. Mugesera was one of the people responsible for inciting the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Rwandan civilians 20 years ago. It took us 21 years to deport Léon Mugesera.
I believe that one of the reasons for the delay is that he applied for permanent residence on humanitarian grounds twice. Léon Mugesera showed no humanitarian compassion toward victims of the Rwandan genocide. In my opinion, Canada is in no way obliged to provide special consideration on humanitarian grounds to a person who has committed genocide.
Quite frankly, I encourage the opposition parties to reconsider their foolhardy opposition to the bill, because if they do not, I look forward to letting Canadians know at the next election about the position they have taken.