Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the consideration of all members, particularly those of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, for their review of this important legislation, Bill C-43. We have already heard about the number of the amendments proposed to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and other statutes proposed here, although I believe there has been a number of mischaracterizations of the bill.
The bill seeks to do three things primarily. First is to make it easier for the government to remove dangerous foreign criminals from our country. These are convicted serious foreign criminals. Second is to make it harder for those who may pose a risk to Canada to enter the country in the first place. Third is to remove barriers for genuine visitors who want to come to Canada.
There is a number of provisions, the most prominent of which would be the elimination of access to the Immigration Appeal Division for foreign nationals who have been convicted by a Canadian criminal court of what IRPA currently deems “a serious crime”, that is to say a crime which has resulted in a penal sentence of six months or more.
On this point, there has been a lot of obfuscation from the opposition members who have suggested that we will lower the bar for defining what constitutes a serious crime in immigration law. That is completely inaccurate. In 2002, when Parliament adopted the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, it decided in its wisdom, under the leadership of a former Liberal government, to define “serious criminality” under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act as a crime that had resulted in a penal sentence of six months or more. That is the law and we would not change the law in that respect. We hear all sorts of completely bizarre, risible scenarios from the opposition about how this would be applied.
The member for Winnipeg North just imagined that Canadians who bought alcohol when they were not of the age of majority in the United States would get a six-month penal sentence in Canada. I do not know what planet he is living on, but that is not an offence in Canada at all and it is certainly not a criminal offence that carries a six-month penal sentence.
We have heard from opposition members that poor, innocent young Canadians who just happen to have six marijuana plans will be caught by police and they will be thrown out of the country pre-emptively because of this. Again, it is an effort by the opposition members to mislead. The criminal offence to which they refer is possession of a substantial amount of narcotics, in that case six marijuana plants, with the intention of trafficking.
Why did Parliament impose a mandatory minimum sentence for possession of six plants with intention for trafficking? It is precisely because that is how the organized drug gangs operate. They get a bunch of people to cultivate relatively small numbers of plants so that in the past if they were caught, they would not have faced a serious penal sanction. Parliament decided to render that a serious crime with a mandatory minimum prison sentence for trafficking drugs to kids. However, anyone who knows anything about actual sentencing practices will realize that a six-month penal sentence is, according to Parliament, quite appropriately a sentence that carries a penal sanction of six months or more.
The opposition members constantly try to diminish the gravity of these offences, but they do not seem to recognize that these offences create victims in Canada. That is why Sharon Rosenfeldt of the Victims of Violence has said:
As an organization that works with victims of violent crimes and their families, we applaud this proposed change. We feel that streamlining the deportation of convicted criminals from Canada will make our country safer. Limiting access to the Immigration and Refugee Board’s Immigration Appeal Division, and thus reducing the amount of time that convicted criminals may spend in Canada, is an important proactive step in ensuring the safety of all Canadians.
Similarly, the Canadian Police Association has said that it:
—welcomes the introduction of [this bill]...particularly with respect to the enhanced prohibitions against those who have committed serious crimes abroad from coming to Canada....This legislation will help us by streamlining the procedures necessary to remove individuals who remain at-risk to re-offend.
Similarly, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police said that it:
—supports the efforts of [this bill] to provide for a more expeditious removal from Canada of foreigners who are convicted of committing serious crimes against Canadians. As well, we support measures to prevent those with a history of committing criminal offenses, or who pose a risk to our society, from entering Canada. The Act will help to make Canadians and those who legitimately enter Canada safer.
Let the record be clear that the opposition is disregarding the voices of victims' rights organizations, our police and those who are charged with keeping our society safe. What the government seeks to do is when foreign nationals have received a serious criminal sentence of six months or more, the CBSA will then issue a removal order against them, an exclusion order, deeming them inadmissible to stay in Canada. They will no longer be able to appeal that to the Immigration Appeals Division as a result of the bill.
In the past, by appealing to the IAD of the Immigration and Refugee Board, that would typically gain foreign criminals about nine months for that appeal to be heard. If that appeal was refused, they would then appeal that negative decision to the Federal Court. Occasionally they would then be able to further appeal the negative decision by the Federal Court to the Federal Court of Appeals. That takes serious convicted foreign criminals, who have already benefited from due process, including the presumption of innocence in our criminal system, and allows them to delay their deportation for, in that case, two to three years.
That is how Canada ends up with people like Jackie Tran, whom I mentioned before, who was running a Vietnamese drug gang in Calgary. The gang was responsible for the deaths of several people. Like most capos in organized criminal groups, this fellow was too smart to actually pull the trigger, as far as we know. Instead he had other henchmen do that for him. There is no doubt he was in charge. The problem was the police were only able to get him on relatively minor offences, like assault with a weapon, drug trafficking, drug possession and failure to comply with court orders. Because of the current provision in IRPA, which allowed him to appeal his removal order to the IAD for sentences of two years less a day, he managed to delay his removal by six years.
Patrick De Florimonte, a Guyanese national, was found guilty of several criminal offences.
Charges included assault with a weapon, assault causing bodily harm, uttering threats, multiple counts of theft, drug possession, drug trafficking and failure to comply with court orders. He managed to use these loopholes. which we would close, to delay removal by four and a half years.
Then there is the case of Gheorghe Capra, who had over 60 convictions of fraud, forgery, conspiracy to commit fraud, obstructing a police officer, failure to comply with court orders. Again, because those sentences were all less than two years, he managed to appeal those and delay deportation for five years. He reoffended and created new victims.
I honestly cannot imagine why any member of this place would want to allow someone like Mr. Capra, who has no right to be in Canada, is not a Canadian citizen and lost through his own volition the privilege of staying in Canada through his criminal recidivism, to continue to delay his removal from Canada and claim new victims.
For example, there is the case of Mr. Jeyachandran Balasubramanium, who was convicted of assault with a weapon, drug possession, drug trafficking and failure to comply with court orders. Again, through the same procedures we would close, he managed to delay his removal for seven years.
That clearly demonstrates why the provisions to limit appeals to the IAD are so broadly supported.
Let me address a couple of the other points in the short time available to me. The member from Winnipeg talked about how terrible it was that we would close access to humanitarian and compassionate consideration for certain people. What he failed to mention was that the people we would exclude from H and C consideration would be those who had been found by our legal system to be inadmissible on security grounds for human and international rights violations and for organized criminality.
I will give the House one example. Léon Mugesera was one of the members responsible for inciting the Rwandan genocide that led to the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians. He got to Canada.
When it was learned that he was involved in the genocide, efforts were made to have him deported from Canada, but he delayed his removal by nearly 20 years. I do not think that the vast majority of Canadians feel that a man involved in genocide should have his application considered on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. This man had no compassion and did not consider the humanity of the victims in the Rwandan genocide.
And that is why we are supporting this bill.