Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to some of the debate that just went on with the hon. member for Québec-Est. He cited examples of abuse of the system. Even the answers of the parliamentary secretary made reference to some concerns that are purportedly in the legislation. Perhaps we will establish in what I am about to say that they are not in the legislation.
I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak on the amendments to the Immigration Act contained in Bill C-44, dealing with deportation and the strengthening of the enforcement system to deal with the threat of criminals entering into Canada. This is an area which has been in need of a serious overhaul for a long time. It is an area which my party has brought to the attention of the House and the minister on numerous occasions. Reform members have been forceful in their desire to see serious and strong amendments brought forward in the area of immigration.
While I am glad to see our efforts finally being acknowledged by the government, the bill is only a partial step forward. I believe Bill C-44 may do more harm than good by luring us into a false sense of security.
Canadians will be told that immigration has been amended and that criminals will now be kept out of the country, but this is not the case nor will it be. Canadians need to know the facts. The issue must not be glossed over by the efforts of the government to pretend that its stop gap measure will actually stop anything at all.
The bill amending the Immigration Act falls short of its desired goal because the system has not been redesigned to accommodate the changes. It is the system itself that is at fault. As we have seen in countless legislative examples past and present, without a willingness to make core systemic change tinkering with legislation will not work. There must not only appear to be a willingness to address criminality in our immigration process, but real will must produce some of the results we see are lacking in the system.
Bill C-44 is a step in the right direction in that it will help ensure that criminals are kept out of the immigration system once they are identified. And once they are identified it does limit the appeals they will have.
However the bill is impotent in that persons with a serious criminal past can arrive and stay in Canada free to move about as they wish with no restraints. Persons entering into Canada will still not have a security check done on them until just prior to a refugee hearing or when they fill out an application for permanent residence. Yes, immediate steps will then be taken to
ensure that a criminal is removed and that is good, but that is very similar to someone drawing up a plan to get a fox out of the hen house after the fox has had his run through the place. The goal is not to set up a strategy to get the fox once he is in the hen house. The goal should be to set up a system whereby we can prevent him from entering the hen house at all.
We have the people on the frontline who are there to interview those who make a claim for refugee status at the port of entry. Why do we not empower them to make an inquiry as to whether or not the applicant is a wanted criminal or someone with a serious criminal past? We do not even equip them with the necessary tools to make such an inquiry. We even go as far as to leave the door on the hen house unlocked and open with a sign that reads: "If you are found to be a fox you may be asked to leave".
This summer I had the honour of meeting with a group of police officers in the 12th Division B Platoon in Westside, Toronto, the friends and co-workers of Todd Baylis. This 25-year old constable was brutally murdered in the line of duty by a deportee designate on June 16, 1994.
What I saw and felt as I met with them was the grief of men and women betrayed by the system they try to uphold. They told of harassment, lack of information, lack of immigration enforcement, manpower and training, continual imminent danger and plummeting morale as they cope with life and death, drugs and violence in a once peaceful community.
I read the new legislation and I paused to reflect on their grief and anger on the one side and the response from the government. The new rules would do nothing to prevent the very same event from happening again.
I am amazed, as should all Canadians be, that after a senseless death-and a full inquiry by the way placed no blame-and the consequential drafting of the legislation that Todd Baylis would be in the same danger today as he was on that fateful night. Shame on those that have been part of this so-called solution. It is too late simply to say this tragedy should never have occurred, but for the friends of Todd Baylis it is a reality.
It is therefore imperative that we as legislators take seriously the obligation to tighten up a system that needs a major overhaul so that the memory of Constable Baylis will serve as a catalyst to ensure that such mistakes do not happen again.
The minister has said that the immigration system was not solely at fault in this particular case and the murder was as much a product of our society as deserving deportation as an immigrant. Unfortunately some truth may be here. This young man's pattern of criminality was well established over many years. Much of it was under the Young Offenders Act, another government system of rules and excuses that destroys accountability and creates a mockery of respect for the laws of the land.
The government's tinkering in both systems-the Immigration Act and the Young Offenders Act-does not reflect the will of Canadians or the real need toward the security of our streets and homes.
Bureaucrats and politicians must wake up and listen to Canadians. I have met with shop owners on Queen Street in Toronto who watch 100 crack deals a day in front of their empty stores. I have talked with struggling immigrant restaurant owners whose livelihood investment is being sucked dry by a decaying criminal neighbourhood. I receive overwhelming community feedback for changes to the age identification and record keeping for young offenders. If the government wants safe streets and homes, it should make those changes happen and make them happen soon.
The legislation before us today leaves us with some very serious unanswered questions which must be addressed. To begin with, there are serious administrative questions. The budget for the removals division for fiscal year 1991-92 was $13 million. This increased to $23 million in 1993-94. This 77 per cent increase begs this first question: How was the money spent in light of the fact that an administrative nightmare still exists in the issuance and tracking of deportation orders?
Second, what has happened to the thousands of inactive cases we heard about in the inquiry that were kept in boxes in immigration offices because there were not enough officers or administrative support staff to deal with them? Have they been dealt with now?
What about the request for a shared database between police and immigration agents to help track down those who have effectively avoided deportation? Have the department's computer systems been brought up to date with regard to determining exact numbers of refugees and immigrants that are out there facing deportation orders? Has a better system been put into place to keep track of those who were supposedly ready to leave voluntarily on their deportation orders?
Let me expand on the importance of getting answers to these questions. This summer there were approximately 26,000 warrants outstanding on deportation orders. Of these, there were approximately 11,000 immigration warrants in the Canadian Police Information Centre system which alerts police across the country to persons who are arrestable for immigration reasons.
There is a great discrepancy in these numbers. The main problem is the poor administration in this crucial area. Police are often not aware of whether or not the person they are dealing with is under a deportation order. Those people in the system and operating it are not even fully aware of the number of
deportation orders that are still active because of all the unknowns currently existing in the system.
For example, there is no way of currently knowing if a person has indeed left the country, or even if they were requested to do so, unless they were escorted out or informed the immigration authorities that they were leaving. This must change. There exists a serious flaw within the present deportation system where great emphasis is placed upon personal compliance with the order to leave.
In response to a request by the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, Mr. Hallam Johnston from the department agreed to provide members of the committee with a list of impediments to removal. I quote from his reply:
The most significant impediment to removal is the failure of persons to effect their open removal from Canada. Some examples of this include (1) failure to comply with the deportation order; (2) failure to show up for removal arrangements (approximately a 40 per cent no-show rate experienced), and (3) failure to appear at port of entry to effect the removal after arrangements have been completed (approximately a 10 per cent no-show rate experienced).
The lack of travel documents is also an impediment in effecting removals. Foreign governments require returning citizens to be in possession of a valid passport or other re-entry document. The difficulty is to secure a document and satisfy the foreign government that the person being returned is a citizen.
Nowhere within this amendment is there reason to believe that this serious problem in supervising the deportation of those requested to leave Canada has been addressed. It is ridiculous to continue in this pattern. For the department to even admit that its biggest obstacle in carrying out deportations is the failure of people to remove themselves is incredulous. How can Canadians feel their confidence in this government is well founded when they hear reports like that? How can Canadians feel reassured that they are safe and secure that criminals will be deported when this government has been relying on the criminals checking themselves out of the country?
It should also not be of any surprise to us that foreign governments are reluctant to take their citizens back when they discover they are being deported for criminal activity.
The ironies of deportation of professional criminals was pointed out this weekend in a national news report. It was reported that Canada returned 227 deportees to Jamaica from January to July of this year, one-quarter of the total from all sources. It also pointed out that wealthy countries such as Canada are viewed by some countries as dumping our problems on them.
Does this government have a plan to assure Canadians that proper and sufficient paper work will be available for needed deportations even in the face of resistance or lack of co-operation from receiving nations?
Once those criminals are deported, can this government assure us through the integrity of our own system that those same individuals will be made to stay out?
In most cases the problems should have been averted by denying access of the criminals to Canada in the first place. This could be accomplished by having the proper computer system set up that is linked into the CPIC and Interpol systems and able to do a criminal record check on anyone applying for refugee status at the port of entry. This must be a priority.
There is also a problem with too few investigators doing the job with very little training and lack of proper backup and protection. Is it any surprise that a large number of deportations being carried out each year are served against those who are charged with overstaying their visitors' visas? These are grandmothers and grandfathers visiting kids, not dangerous criminals. Why should this change? Has the need for more investigators, better administrative support and working computer systems been established yet? Are police constables like Todd Baylis walking the beat on our city streets better informed now than they were in June?
The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration has stated there are three main objectives to his removal strategy: getting foreign criminals out of Canada, ensuring compliance with removal orders, and ensuring that failed refugee claimants are removed properly.
On July 7 the minister stated: "This government has adopted clear priorities for removals. Our top priority is to remove criminals. Those who present a danger to Canadian society and those who wilfully abuse the immigration system will be clearly identified and we will take whatever action is necessary to see that these people are removed from Canada. The legislation and other measures I have introduced related to criminality will allow immigration officials to take prompt, decisive action in these cases".
These are tough words. The minister must have a great deal of confidence in his present system to believe that it can accomplish these objectives without very major overhauls to the system of which to date there has been no sign.
Is this minister willing to back up these words by putting his job on the line? Will he resign his position as minister if his new task force and deportation plan are ineffective in preventing any more tragedies like those we heard about this morning and that have occurred even in this last year?
The commitment made by the minister is not new. It has been made in the past by other administrations but this minister has
promised immediate action. How has his promise been translated into action? This week there was a report in the Globe and Mail suggesting that Pearson International Airport authorities and facilities were unable to cope with new arrivals. Criminals were slipping through desperately overcrowded immigration facilities and given free access to our communities.
How can this minister believe we can have confidence in task forces and deportation plans when the system he claims to be adequate continues to justify the deep concern that Canadians have about an immigration system that is not working?
Since the immigration-RCMP task force came into effect in July it has identified 1,888 deportation cases involving criminality. How effective has his prompt decisive action been?
Out of all the cases identified a total of 14 have been removed from Canada. That is less than .7 per cent of the total number identified. As a matter of fact the task force has discovered that another 14 of the individuals being sought have been found to be deceased. At least the task force is keeping even in its efforts in this particular statistic.
Another thing for us to remember is that a task force is a temporary measure, not a permanent one. How can Bill C-44 be properly implemented when the task force and its personnel are no longer working on these cases? Where will the personnel come from? Who will be serving the deportation notices? Who will be monitoring the outcome and ensuring that those required to leave are doing so? What permanent steps are being taken to deal with the shortcomings in the system and the great need to implement the changes being proposed.
When one looks at the numbers released by the task force in August, it is interesting to note that 414 of these cases are presently in the judicial system. Another 779 are currently awaiting decisions on their claims for review of their cases. Another 532 are under investigation. Does this mean they are currently being looked for?
A major flaw in this legislation is that it presumes that someone with a serious criminal past will come to Canada and then appear at a refugee determination hearing where a security check will finally be done. It presumes upon the criminal mind that they will wait to be discovered instead of immediately going underground to prevent themselves from facing automatic deportation. There is nothing in the system or the amendments to prevent them from doing so.
In conclusion, we must ask ourselves whether or not these steps are a real solution to the problem or simply a reaction to a crisis. For example, we have yet to see how the system will deal with those who have criminal records for a string of offences including assault for which a 10-year maximum sentence does not apply. These are people who may be powder kegs ready to blow and yet the immigration system will take no action against them because they have not yet committed the ultimate crime. This particular amendment, like the Young Offenders Act, completely ignores repeat criminal activity to the peril of all Canadians.
The fact that we need tough legislation in this area is apparent enough to the people of my riding of Port Moody-Coquitlam. Just mention the name of Michael Drake there to someone and you can see the anger flare up as they realize the system is still trying to deport this convicted child molester back to the United States. Not only has Drake been successful in deferring his deportation orders time and time again but he has been successful in ensuring that he is free to roam the streets while he awaits his hearing.
It is our responsibility to see that the laws are in effect that will end these kinds of travesties. Bill C-44 in itself will not make the necessary changes needed to right the wrongs created by a system that suffers so greatly from neglect. But we as legislators need to ensure that any changes we propose to the system are aimed at the heart of the problem and not simply at the needs of the moment.
We need to equip those in the trenches not just with a book of rules but with the tools to do the job. We need to assure the shopkeepers, the businessmen, the parents and the police, Canadians by birth or by choice that they do not need to fear the system that should protect them.
Bill C-44 regarding the amendments to the Immigration Act is a step in the right direction. However this legislation alone cannot make the system succeed. The government must go further to demonstrate its commitment to the safety of all Canadians in their homes and on their streets.