Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to address Bill C-43 this afternoon and to put on record what I believe is an important perspective.
First and foremost, if the minister genuinely wanted to get rid of foreign criminals or permanent residents who were committing all these crimes, I believe there is a lot more the minister could have done other than just bring in the legislation. We in the Liberal Party do believe that permanent residents who commit serious crimes should be deported, and it should be done in a timely fashion. We do believe that. We are not, to quote some government members, supporting criminals staying in Canada indefinitely. At the end of the day, we believe that there needs to be consequences. It is not too much to ask people who are coming to Canada to behave in a good fashion. A vast majority of permanent residents have done that.
The Liberal Party, in its time in government, generously opened the doors to immigrants from around the world and advocated for responsible behaviour in Canada, and we will continue to do so.
The bill goes back to June of last year in the dying days of the session. The Minister of Immigration had a big press conference and he had all sorts of PowerPoint slides. The minister spared no cost on this. He wanted to make a powerful statement, which all Canadians needed to know, that the government is committed to the faster removal of foreign criminals. He loved the headline and he wanted every media outlet to report that fact.
Many experts, many different stakeholders have said the bill is so far-reaching that the minister has gone overboard. In reality, that is really what has happened. He has gone a little overboard. If the minister really wanted to do Canadians and all residents a favour, maybe he should invest a little more in our border services and in resources for immigration.
I asked him how many foreign nationals do we have in Canada today who are not here legally who are committing crimes. I applaud the Minister of Immigration. He gave a somewhat honest answer. He recognized that he did not know. He has been the minister for six years and he does not know. Crime is a really important agenda item for the government, apparently. Yet he has no idea how many foreign nationals are in Canada today, let alone the fact that he does not even know how many of those foreign nationals are committing crimes. Why? Because he is more focused on the bigger picture, the big headline.
That might be good possibly for future leadership bids, but in terms of serving Canadians, I would suggest that there is a lot more that the Minister of Immigration could have done to deal with this issue, which is important to Canadians and all residents who live here and call Canada their home. The minister could have adequately resourced our services so that the people who commit these hideous and serious crimes could be deported in a more timely fashion. That is what we expected from the Minister of Immigration.
We have a number of concerns about Bill C-43. One of them is using public policy to deny entry. The minister said, “It is okay. Trust me. I can determine what refugees are irregular arrivals”. Members will remember that piece of legislation. The minister wanted that power. This is the minister who said, “It is okay. I can determine what country in the world is a safe country”, even though we had other legislation that passed that said it should be dealt with by an advisory board made up of professionals, people who have expertise in a wide variety of issues such as human rights.
Now we have the minister, once again, wanting more power. He wants to be able to, through public policy, decide who should not be able to come to the country. One could say maybe that is just the Liberal Party talking and being critical of the minister but, no, all we have to do is look at what was said in the citizenship and immigration committee.
In committee Barb Jackman, a constitutional lawyer, said:
I have no doubt that the public policy grounds will lead to denying people admission on the basis of speech.
There were other individuals. This is a quote from the testimony of Michael Greene from the Canadian Bar Association on the same topic:
We believe this power is unlimited, unaccountable, un-Canadian, and unnecessary. It doesn't have a place in a free and democratic society that cherishes civil liberties and fundamental freedoms.
This is not the Liberal Party saying this, and contrary to what the minister likes to say, which is that these lawyers are all lefties, social activists and so forth, these are people who are committed enough to share their ideas and their thoughts when they recognize that the government has gone overboard and who take the time to come and make a presentation to our committee. We should appreciate that.
There are other issues. Misrepresentation is now increased, from two years to five years, in terms of when a person would actually be able to reapply for immigration purposes to come to Canada. Again, the minister says that if people are filling out the application, by God, they should be honest, and if they are honest, they do not have a problem. Therefore, why would someone oppose increasing the time penalty from two years to five years when someone has been dishonest?
I am sure that the minister is aware of things such as unintentional or innocent misrepresentation. I am sure the minister is aware of bad immigration lawyers and employment agencies that provide misinformation. It is not always the applicant who might be at fault.
However, in the legislation, the minister does not care about that. He is prepared to ignore that issue completely and say that it doesn't matter. He doesn't care why it might have appeared on the form. That person will have to wait five years because of something that they might not have even been aware of and, for all intents and purposes, they thought they were being completely honest and straightforward on the application. However, there is no extra consideration whatsoever being given to that. It is a mindset. This is something where the Conservatives and the Liberals really differ.
Liberals believe in immigration in the true sense of the word. We believe that immigration is what has helped build our country to what it is today. We do not believe that if people land in Canada they have to become citizens or they are not good citizens of our land. The current government believes that if people land in Canada and have been here for three years, they had better be getting their citizenship or they plant a seed of doubt in terms of why they would not be getting their citizenship, that they are not as good as the rest of us for not getting their citizenship. If we listen to the rhetoric and the many comments that come from the minister, one can easily draw that sort of a conclusion.
I raised the issue in terms of children and the issue of family breakup. I must have hit a chord because the minister began his comments with it. We have families that immigrate to Canada every day, families of three, four, five and larger. I found the minister's response amazing. He said that if one member of a family commits a crime, it is not a problem. Their family does not have to stay in Canada. They can all leave Canada because that one person has to leave.
There is no evaluation or true sense of compassion in terms of what the circumstances behind the crime or the action were. Truth be known, it is not as black and white as many would like to think it is. I sat on a justice committee. That is why I said before that I believe in consequences for all crimes, period, whether they are committed by Canadians or permanent residents. I believe there needs to be consequences for crime, and I believe also that all my caucus colleagues support that.
Where the Liberals differ is that we are a little more sympathetic to the understanding of situations. That is why, for example, we believe it is appropriate to let judges have some judicial discretion. That is something in which we have a little more faith, the importance of an independent judicial system. However, the government does not recognize that at all. It is straightforward.
This was interesting. I cited three examples and the hon. member only made reference to two of the examples when we talked about youth crime. One of the crimes I mentioned was a 20-year-old with six pots of marijuana. On occasions I have explained in the House that, yes, those are for trafficking purposes. That is nothing new. The hon. member's comment was that the bill only relates to trafficking. Fine. I have acknowledged that in the past.
Does the minister not think there are 18-year-olds trafficking marijuana in high schools? Do I have news for the minister. It is there. It is real. It is happening today, not only by people who immigrated when they were two-year-olds but by people who were born in Canada. I will tell the hon. member something else. At times young people make some stupid decisions. If a person were in Canada since they were a one-year-old and they are now 20 years old and they get caught doing something stupid, is that justification for deporting that person in all cases? I would argue that it is not, not in all cases. The minister would ultimately argue, yes.
By my saying what I just said, the minister will say the Liberal Party supports people who sexually molest seniors, and I believe he tried to imply it. That is absolute rubbish, but that is one example the minister gave. The reality is that the minister is prepared to see a 20-year-old deported to a country he or she has never known, even though that person was a one-year-old when they came to Canada, because they had six pots of marijuana growing and attempted to sell it to some buddies.
Before one starts throwing stones, one needs to reflect on their own human behaviour.
At the end of the day the other example the minister gave was about using false identification. As opposed to hearing it from me, let me read exactly what was said in committee. I would ask the minister to really listen to this. I quote:
Using a false or fraudulent document is an offence under section 368 of the Criminal Code and carries a maximum potential penalty of 10 years. A 20-year-old permanent resident who is convicted of using fake identification to get into a bar while visiting the United States is inadmissible under IRPA because of a foreign conviction.
It doesn't matter that the U.S. court punished him with only a $200 fine. Paragraph 36(1)(b) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act does not require any particular sentence, only a foreign conviction.
This is coming from someone who represented the Canadian Bar, dealing with immigration work in the past, a presenter to the committee. The minister says that we have to do our homework. Part of the homework is listening to what people have to say when they come to the committee. I am just repeating something said before committee, and if one follows that example through, I think it would surprise a lot of people.
I brought up three issues. The one that the minister did not make reference to was a 20-year old taking his camera or cellphone into a movie theatre, recording some cool show he has just seen and then showing it in any way. Well, he is out of luck if he does not have his citizenship, even though he may have been here since he was one or two years old.
The point is that the government, in bringing forward this legislation, has gone too far and over-reached. We in the Liberal Party recognize the need to ensure that permanent residents who commit serious crimes should be deported. We believe that it should be done relatively quickly. There are ways that the government could be far more effective, if it genuinely wants to make our communities safer places to be. I cited that point at the very beginning, and I think it is an appropriate way to close.
If the government wants to prevent crimes from taking place in the first place, if it wants to deport those who are here illegally and who should not have been here in the first place, not because they committed a crime but because they have over-stayed, and if it wants to deport permanent residents who have committed serious crimes, the best thing it could do would be to invest in immigration services that facilitate that. The government could invest in our border services. If the government were prepared to do that, then it would be far more effective in making our communities safer places.
There are many other things that people should be reflecting on before this bill comes to a vote. I would suggest that the government did not listen to the types of amendment that we brought forward, some serious amendments, at committee.
I appreciate the fact that one of those amendments was modified by the government, where the minister uses his ability to deny access and would be obligated to submit that in a yearly report. At the very least, the House would then know when and how often the minister used that ability. We were hoping that the amendment would pass the way we suggested it, but I am glad that the government did recognize that particular Liberal amendment and made some modifications. However, for the most part, with that one exception, many other amendments that could really have improved the legislation were not passed.
As a final thought, I do believe that we need to look at a country like France that recognizes children who immigrate there as being more a part of their society, because of their age when they immigrated. Here I could give the example of someone in a tragic situation who had immigrated as a child and through a horrific accident became a foster child, which, no doubt, has happened in the past.