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House of Commons Hansard #159 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was criminals.

Topics

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have referred to this bill as an anti-immigrant bill, even in its short title, the faster removal of foreign criminals act. Just because its name implies something does not necessarily make it a good bill. Many Canadians have concerns about serious crimes and want some sort of consequences for those. We recognize that.

Does the member have any difficulty with the government using words like “foreign criminals” as opposed to “permanent residents”, much like it used the term “bogus refugees” to try to send an indirect and very negative message toward immigrants?

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Alexandrine Latendresse NDP Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Winnipeg North for his question.

I completely agree, and I even said so in my speech. When I hear government members using the word “foreigners” to describe people who live here as permanent residents, I am very unhappy, especially when it is the Minister of Immigration, who should be their champion, defending these people and supporting them. Moreover, the French word for foreigner, “étranger”, also means stranger--someone not like us. It is as if they did not want to associate with foreigners or strangers. It is very upsetting to hear them use such terms.

Serious crimes have been mentioned a number of times. Someone who has six marijuana plants in the house will now be considered a serious criminal, but is that really true? That is a question Parliament will have to answer one day.

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I commend my colleague for an incredible speech. She always grounds her speeches in personal experience, and if she were still an immigrant and I were the minister, I would be happy to make her a citizen immediately.

I have two issues. The first is that we have had a frustrating situation in Edmonton and all of northern Alberta, where the minister has delayed reappointing a citizenship judge for over a year. I am getting letters and calls from applicants who have been waiting more than 18 months simply to have their applications considered.

Does the member think the government is making things even more difficult for landed immigrants and that it could perhaps put more programs in place to provide employment and support for youth who might get in trouble, allowing them to avoid potential deportation and perhaps to become productive Canadian citizens?

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Alexandrine Latendresse NDP Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my excellent colleague, the member for Edmonton—Strahcona.

Situations such as those my colleague has just described are very hard to understand for people like us who have grown up here and always lived here. When people arrive in a new country, they may not understand the language very well. They are completely disoriented. Instead of helping them make a contribution to our society, our beloved country, the government tells them the process may be long and it tries to discourage them by putting obstacles in their way. In short, the message it is trying to send is that we are not sure we really want them. It is not obvious to these young people and it may be that some of them will turn to crime. We must give them more help.

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Alain Giguère NDP Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, this new bill gives a great deal of discretionary power to the Minister of Justice. I wonder if my distinguished colleague could talk about the importance of separating judicial, administrative and political powers.

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Alexandrine Latendresse NDP Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, the main risk here is that there is no longer any judicial independence. These decisions will become completely arbitrary and, based on the criteria, they will be made on the minister's whim.

Instead, we need clear legislation with specific criteria. We want these decisions to be made by judges, not by the minister.

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals ActGovernment Orders

October 4th, 2012 / 5:15 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Speaker, in the brief time I have I cannot go over chapter and verse of the bill, but I want to focus on a couple of sections and aspects of the bill.

Bill C-43 concentrates more power in the hands of the minister by giving him new discretionary authority over the admissibility of temporary residents. It relieves the minister of the responsibility to examine humanitarian circumstances, changes what constitutes serious criminality for the purpose of access to an appeal of a determination of inadmissibility, increases the penalty for misrepresentation and clarifies that entering with the assistance of organized criminal activity does not on its own lead to inadmissibility.

In case there is any confusion, New Democrats will support this legislation getting to committee. I want to quote the member for Newton—North Delta who, as the NDP immigration critic, has done a tremendous amount of work on this file. In her speech on September 24, she indicated that she wanted to make clear the following:

—that as New Democrats we recognize the need for an efficient and responsive judicial approach to removing of serious criminals who are not citizens.

All Canadians want a tough approach to non-citizens who commit serious, often violent, crimes in our communities. Newcomers in our communities, the vast majority of whom are law-abiding and follow the rules, would be among the first to agree with this sentiment.

However, she went on to say that we do have some serious concerns about the bill being proposed. One of the concerns she outlined was that it again concentrates powers with the minister. Part of the concern that the member raised was the fact that our immigration system does not need to be more politicized than it already is. Whenever we start seeing increased concentration of powers in the minister's hands, it removes parliamentary oversight from some of those activities and removes it from the department itself, which often operates in a more arm's-length way.

One of the other items she raised is that:

Another troubling feature for us in the bill is that the bill relieves the minister of the responsibility to examine humanitarian circumstances, taking into account the interests of children affected. In our view, ignoring the interests of children is not something the minister should be relieved of.

I want to touch briefly on the issue of war resisters. War resisters at the time were not permanent residents, but it has been an issue that has come before the House a number of times, including a motion that supported allowing war resisters to remain in this country. We recently had the case of the war resister Kimberly Rivera, who asked the government to grant permanent residence status on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. The NDP's British Columbia caucus wrote a letter to the minister indicating that we had joined prominent Canadians and international advocates, including Nobel laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu, in calling on the minister to allow Ms. Rivera to stay in Canada with her family. The letter mentioned the fact that Ms. Rivera had children while she was living here and that there were many other factors to consider.

I want to mention another war resister who, unfortunately, was deported from my riding a couple of years ago. It was a young man named Cliff Cornell who had been living on Gabriola. He was a quiet young man. He had joined the forces in the United States. He grew up in a mountain home in Arkansas and in 2002 after leaving high school and with few employment prospects he had accepted a $5,000 signing bonus for a career in the U.S. Army. A few months later the U.S. went to war against Iraq. He deserted and came to Canada in 2005 to avoid combat. It was a case of a young man who grew up in very poor circumstances and ended up perhaps not really understanding what he was getting into. He ended up in Canada. He was well liked and well supported by the community on Gabriola. He found a job there. He was a responsible citizen and yet ended up being deported.

With regard to Bill C-43, there was a recent article in the Toronto Star entitled, “Bill could exile thousands of permanent residents for minor crimes”. The article indicates that under the proposed new law, thousands of permanent residents could lose their status and be deported for minor convictions, from shoplifting to traffic and drug offences, according to Canada’s top immigration lawyers.

These are young children brought to Canada at a young age as permanent residents, raised and schooled in Canada, but who never took out citizenship.

It goes on in the article to say that the federal government has always had the authority to strip landed immigrant status from a permanent resident convicted of a serious crime, but Bill C-43 would allow appeals only for those sentenced to less than six months in jail, down from the current threshold of two years.

As our immigration critic pointed out, with some of the changes in the Conservatives' crime legislation with the mandatory minimums, we now see people getting sentenced for some minor crime to more than six months, so they would not be eligible for any kind of process under this new legislation.

The article also talked about the fact that people may have misrepresented themselves when they applied for immigration. It points out that there could be honest omissions on a person's employment history, or incorrect dates of certain events written down in an immigration application could come back to haunt the immigrant years later.

It is also indicated in here that it is very likely that this could face a court challenge under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, given previous Supreme Court of Canada decisions directing that authorities must consider humanitarian risk factors before deporting a person.

I want to reiterate the fact that New Democrats are in support of getting the bill to committee, but we are calling on the government to consider looking at some amendments that could actually make this a better bill. I will end on that note.

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Saint Boniface Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I am a bit shocked by what I just heard from my hon. colleague.

I was a police officer for quite some time in the city of Winnipeg and dealt with what my colleague referred to as minor offences on a number of occasions, so I am quite shocked when I hear my colleague refer to these offences that are punishable by at least six months as being what she termed minor, offences like assault with a weapon, sexual assault, robbery, break and enter. These, to me, are not minor in any way, shape or form. These are crimes that involve victims.

I would ask my learned colleague if she would clarify. Does she really stand by what she just said, that these crimes—sexual assault, assault with a weapon, robbery—these crimes punishable by at least six months, are minor?

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am perfectly happy to correct the record. I was quoting from Canada's top immigration lawyers who said:

Under a proposed new law, thousands of permanent residents could lose their status and be deported for minor convictions.

It is the immigration lawyers who said this. I was not saying it. I was quoting from an article.

I want to quote, however, the member for Newton—North Delta, who said:

I want to make it clear that as New Democrats we recognize the need for an efficient and responsive judicial approach to removing serious criminals who are not citizens.

I want to be clear. I will repeat that. New Democrats want to see a responsive judicial approach to removing serious criminals.

I hope that is clear enough for the parliamentary secretary.

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Jean-François Larose NDP Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I was a correctional officer for many years, and I must say that my hon. colleague made some excellent points. I have seen many immigration cases.

Our position is clear: victims are always important to us. We must never forget the conditions that many immigrants may have faced in their country of origin. We have heard stories of torture, malnutrition and disease. Sending our problems elsewhere is not a solution. I see a serious problem with inviting people into our country, only to turn around and tell them they are not our concern, that this is an exclusive club, and then deport them without sharing any of the positive aspects of our society.

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, part of the concerns that New Democrats have raised is that the bill concentrates far too much discretion within the minister's hands, and it also modifies the issue around humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

Of course, Canadians have long been known for their approach around examining humanitarian and compassionate grounds, and it would be a shame if Canada stopped looking at that in the context of reviewing these kinds of decisions.

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I will be brief with my question. When we talk about the individuals that this legislation could potentially impact, we are talking about a lot of young people and young families. Therefore, we could have an immigrant family that came to Canada 15 or 16 years ago with a five-year-old child who at 18 years of age is caught doing something inappropriate, such as growing more than six marijuana plants in the garage, or something of that nature, which automatically carries a six-month minimum sentence, at which point this individual would then be deported. The rest of the family can stay, but this particular youth would be deported with no right of appeal.

Could my colleague comment on the issues of that nature, which are very real?

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member hits on a very good point. The immigration lawyers who have raised concerns about this have raised that very issue. They are saying that the law will target permanent residents, many of whom arrived in Canada at a young age and were raised, educated and established families and businesses here. It would seem reasonable that those kinds of circumstances were taken into consideration when the file was being reviewed, so the member is absolutely correct.

Again, the New Democrats are supporting getting this bill to committee with the hope that these kinds of clauses in the bill can be amended so that they more reflect what has been a tradition in Canada.

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Is the House ready for the question?

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

All those opposed will please say nay.

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

The chief government whip is rising on a point of order.

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Conservative Carleton—Mississippi Mills, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. There have been discussions among the whips and I believe if you seek it you will find agreement, pursuant to Standing Order 45(7), to defer the vote of this motion to the end of government orders on Tuesday, October 16, 2012.

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Does the chief government whip have consent to propose the motion?

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.