Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak in the debate on Bill C-316, an act to amend the Immigration Act and the Transfer of Offenders Act.
I congratulate my colleague, the Liberal member for Cambridge, for getting involved in this matter. Crime is a matter of the highest concern to myself and the members of the Bloc Quebecois, as it is to everyone. We believe that government has the obligation and also the right to protect people against criminals, whether they are born in Canada or elsewhere.
The aim of Bill C-316 is to improve the process of deporting those who have committed violent crimes and to transfer the powers of the Department of Immigration to the courts. As justification for this bill, the member cited two murders, which took place in Toronto last year and which moved the public, including the members of the Bloc Quebecois. We deplored these two murders-one of a young woman, the other of a police officer. We do not, however, consider the bill justified in the present context. I believe it will create more problems than it hopes to resolve. I note the hon. member included a clause providing for an exception whereby, for example, young immigrants under the age of 16, who had arrived in Canada at an early age, would not be deported. This is an excellent principle, but contained in a flawed bill.
I have often said that young people who arrive in Canada when they are very young become the products of Canadian society rather than their society of origin. Poverty and adversity-problems we have here in Canada-sometimes lead to crime, and we must fight these problems at their very root.
A few months ago, here in this House, we debated Bill C-44. As we know, present legislation already gives the Department of Immigration powers to deport criminals who have committed crimes here in Canada and to prevent foreign criminals from entering the country. Bill C-44 accords additional powers to the Department of Immigration and, particularly, to the minister.
As you know, and my colleague knows this because he sits on the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration with me, just about every organization, except the police association, came and testified against Bill C-44. We understand why the police association always adopts the same position against crime.
One of the observations made in the discussions on Bill C-44 was that the bill would impose a double penalty for the same crime, that is, it would punish an individual twice for a single crime. This is unacceptable in any legal system, here or elsewhere. Under Bill C-316, this is even more clearly the case. An individual would be punished twice, particularly by the courts. The courts would punish the offence and then add a second punishment: deportation.
To date, deportation, the expulsion of immigrants, has been an administrative process. It is the responsibility of the Department of Immigration, and, according to my colleague's bill, it should be the responsibility of the courts. We all know that the courts lack jurisdiction to decide on matters where human life is at risk. There are matters of life or death involving the application of the Geneva convention, which imposes certain conditions on signatory countries, such as Canada.
Existing legislation provides a process whereby those accused may turn to the law. Deporting an individual requires a decision by an arbitrator. This decision may be appealed before the Immigration and Refugee Board.
This bill also addresses the issue of transferring criminals from Canada to other countries. True, some bilateral treaties now in effect allow such a transfer if requested by the offender; if there is a bilateral agreement, these people are sent back to their countries of origin. However, not all countries are willing to sign such treaties. Why would the country of origin pay the cost of incarcerating a criminal for several years for a crime that was not committed on its own territory? In this sense, I do not find this bill realistic.
This bill would also penalize the families of criminals. Having been trained as a lawyer, I know that this infringes on the most basic of rights. This is unacceptable. Why should two year old or three year old children pay for their father's crime or a woman for her husband's crime? In my opinion, the philosophy currently evolving in Canada against immigrants with criminal records goes too far.
I read the presentations carefully and I listened to my colleagues earlier. No one in this House mentioned that the crime rate among immigrants is lower than among those who were born here. Statistics show that the percentage of immigrant inmates in Canadian prisons is lower than the percentage of Canadian-born inmates. So punishing an individual by association is both unacceptable and inhumane.
I have noted that Reform members have serious reservations in this regard and that Liberal members support this bill. I really followed with great interest the speech by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, and I agree with her analysis.
I think that this bill raises many constitutional issues as well as many questions in connection with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It violates the following sections-which I did not have time to read-namely section 11, which provides that any person charged with an offence has the right not to be denied reasonable bail without just cause; section 12, which provides that everyone has the right not to be subjected to any
cruel and unusual treatment or punishment; and, above all, section 15, which provides that every individual has the right to equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination based on race, religion, national origin, and so on.
For this reason alone, this bill is unacceptable. But there are other compelling reasons to reject this bill. There are always humanitarian considerations that anyone can invoke. The current law, as well as Bill C-44 now before the Senate, provides that a person can always invoke humanitarian considerations. This bill, however, would prevent these considerations from being put forward.
The current legislation is adequate. In fact, every day, the minister of immigration and his officials prevent hundreds of potential immigrants with criminal records from coming here. Every day, dozens of people are removed from Canada to foreign countries. Since the minister already has this power, I think that this bill is totally unnecessary, and that is why I will vote against it.