Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to spend a little time to talk about Bill C-43.
As the House and this country are aware, there are two fundamental propositions that we are working through and objectives that we would complete over the next period of time with respect to immigration.
First, from an immigration perspective, there is the aspect of ensuring that our backlogs are reduced to such an extent that they no longer pose an issue or problem with respect to driving Canada's economy. We stated very clearly in the budget bill of this spring and early summer that one of the economic drivers for this country over the next decade was going to be a focus on immigration and ensuring that we will bring into the country those with the skill sets necessary to work in this country where those jobs cannot be filled by Canadians. This would enable this country to move quickly, from an economic perspective, to ensure that when companies across this country are moving forward and cannot find those to do the work, we are able to access those skill sets in a very quick and expedited fashion
We know that the previous government cared little about these factors with respect to the economy. We have made it clear that our number one objective is to ensure that Canada's economy remains strong and use immigration to drive the vehicle of the economy.
The second piece on immigration is to ensure security so that our system is not taken advantage of and can be trusted. Most importantly, we would have an immigration system that protects Canadians. It would ensure that victimization through immigration fraud or criminal activity would be halted immediately. Those individuals who are not Canadian citizens would face deportation from this country, based on illegal acts that they have committed.
Our Conservative government is committed to keeping our streets and communities safe. In fact, our platform of 2011 promised to expedite the deportation of foreign criminals. Our government has followed up on that promise by introducing Bill C-43, the faster removal of foreign criminals act.
We are a generous and welcoming people. We also have no tolerance for criminals and fraudsters who abuse Canada's generosity. This proposed legislation would put a stop to foreign criminals relying on endless appeals to delay their removal during which they can continue to commit crimes and victimize Canadians. Our message to foreign criminals is very clear. They are not welcome in our country.
The faster removal of foreign criminals act focuses on three areas. One, it would make it easier for the government to remove dangerous foreign criminals from our country. Two, it would make it harder for those who pose a risk to Canada to enter the country in the first place. Three, it would remove barriers for genuine visitors who want to come to Canada to enjoy our hospitality and the beauty of this country.
I would like to expand on the first area in terms of making it easier for the government to remove dangerous foreign criminals from our country.
We would lower the current threshold to bar access to the Immigration Appeal Division for serious criminality from a minimum sentence requirement of two years to a sentence of six months.
We have all witnessed on a regular basis serious crimes that receive a minimum penalty, whether by judge or jury, of a minimum of two years. However, we have noticed across the country that courts are often using two years less a day to penalize individuals for their crime. At the same time it obviously changes the aspect of that criminal conviction, because it is less than two years, and therefore the scope of the current legislation does not allow us to pursue those individuals for the purpose of getting them out of the country and deporting them. Therefore, we would lower that threshold of two years down to six months for acts of serious criminality.
We also will bar those who are convicted of an offence or committed an act outside Canada, which, if committed in Canada, would carry a maximum sentence of at least 10 years. If individuals commit a crime in another country and its equivalent is a maximum penalty of 10 years if committed here in Canada, we will ensure they are not welcome here and will not participate in Canada's democracy because they have not earned the right to do so based on the crime for which they have been convicted.
We will restrict access to humanitarian and compassionate consideration for foreign nationals who are inadmissible on grounds of security, human or international human rights violations, or organized criminality. We also will clarify that the Minister of Public Safety may only take public safety and national security considerations into account when examining an application for ministerial relief. We will get specific in terms of what a minister, whether of public safety or citizenship and immigration, can do in terms of making a decision on his or her own.
We will deny temporary resident status to foreign nationals who have a non-accompanying family member who is inadmissible on grounds of security, human or international rights violations, or organized criminality. When an organized criminal gets caught in his or her country, is charged, is convicted and we see family members of that individual fleeing because they know they are next or that they face potential criminal investigation themselves, no longer will they have the ability to come into this country.
If a terrorist regime in another country has been brought down, as we have seen over the past year, and the leaders of that terrorist regime or their families attempt to come here to Canada, they will no longer have the right to do so based on their attachment to the criminality and to the rights violations committed in their country of origin.
We will increase the consequence for misrepresentation from a two-year inadmissibility to a five-year inadmissibility and, in addition, ban such individuals from applying for permanent resident status within those five years. If there is one thing I have noticed in my close to four years as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration is that time and time again we have bogus applications coming from other countries simply because some individuals lie on their application, misrepresent their situation, misrepresent their family or misrepresent the reason upon which they are applying for permanent resident status in Canada, whether that be through the normal procedures available or whether it be by refugee status. Therefore, if bogus refugees who want to come to this country misrepresent themselves or basically lie on their application, they will face a five-year inadmissibility penalty instead of a two-year penalty. It also would allow the ministry to ensure that these individuals who have misrepresented themselves cannot apply for permanent residency here in Canada for up to five years during that ban.
We are ensuring that we will make it easier for the government to remove dangerous foreign criminals from our country.
On the second point, we will make it harder for those who pose a risk to Canada to enter the country in the first place.
As I mentioned, we will ensure that our system is modernized and that it meets the standard upon which we should have those coming to this country be allowed to enter into Canada. We will ensure that eligible individuals could file an appeal to the Immigration Appeal Division only if sentenced to less than six months imprisonment in Canada. For example, permanent residents sentenced to 11 months in jail for sexual assault would no longer be eligible to appeal a removal order. They would be removed.
A new bar would be added so that those with a foreign conviction or who committed an act outside of Canada carrying a maximum sentence of at least 10 years in Canada could no longer access the Immigration Appeal Division as well. Clearly this would be an expedited process. If individuals have been convicted of a serious crime in this country or a comparable crime in their country of origin, they will not have the appeal, after appeal mechanism that so many of these criminals have had in the past. That will not exist any more. They will have the right to an appeal but it will be one appeal, it will be quick, fair and, upon the decision of that appeal, it will obviously carry the consequences which will be carried out once that decision is made.
Foreign nationals inadmissible on the most serious grounds of security, human international rights violations or organized criminality will no longer be able to apply under the humanitarian and compassionate provisions. A war criminal would be ineligible to request humanitarian and compassionate considerations as a way to delay removal or remain in Canada permanently.
The legislation would also codify the court's decision. The Minister of Public Safety could only take national security and public safety factors into consideration and not factors such as humanitarian and compassionate when deciding to grant a request for relief from inadmissibility. It would have to be on the grounds of security, certain human international rights violations or organized criminality.
There would also be a new authority that would allow the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism to deny temporary residence status for up to three years on the basis of public policy considerations. For example, the minister could use the authority in the case of a foreign national who promotes violence against a religious group. This will not happen very often but it does not exist in the legislation today which would give the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism the authority to disallow someone to enter Canada based upon, for example, as I stated, that the person would be promoting violence against a religious group in his or her own country of origin or internationally.
Foreign nationals would be inadmissible to visit Canada if the foreign national has a family member accompanying them, or not accompanying them, who is inadmissible on the grounds of security, human international rights violations or organized criminality. For example, the spouse of a person who is inadmissible for war crimes would be inadmissible even when the spouse is travelling to Canada alone.
When we look at those two examples, we can see that the focus that we are taking as a government, that we committed to in the last election and are implementing under Bill C-43, would make it extremely difficult for those who do not meet the standards of immigration here in this country to gain access to the country, to gain permanent residence and, eventually, to gain Canadian citizenship.
However, we also believe it is important that we remove barriers for genuine visitors who want to come to this country. We would make it easier for those who are of no risk or those who are of low risk to get into Canada. For example, low-risk foreign nationals would be admissible for temporary entry into Canada when travelling with a family member who is inadmissible on grounds of serious criminality, health, finance misrepresentation or non-compliance.
Therefore, a parent who is inadmissible on health grounds would remain inadmissible and require a temporary resident permit to visit Canada. However, the remaining family members would actually now be admissible. Under the current legislation, that is not the case. If an individual, for health reasons, is unable to be granted a temporary visa, his or her family is not granted a visa to come here. We will make that change.
Inadmissible persons seeking ministerial relief would need to submit a formal application. The minister's authority to grant relief on his or her own initiative without a formal application will be explicitly spelled out in the act. The minister could use this explicit authority to facilitate the entry of a head of state who would otherwise be found inadmissible if the minister were satisfied that the decision was not contrary to national interests. There are those from other countries currently who are in positions of government or leadership who, based on the current grounds of our law, would be inadmissible to come into Canada. This would allow the minister some flexibility, so to speak, to grant the individual the right to come here to Canada to do his or her work.
Foreign nationals or permanent residents are inadmissible on the grounds of security for any act of espionage against Canada, contrary to the interest of Canada. That part simply will not change.
As members can hear, the position the government has taken is to be tough, to be fair and to update an act that is in need of update. It does not take much for us to find examples from across the country over the past number of years of individuals who have been able to take advantage of our system or to, quite simply, beat our system as it currently is structured.
I will point to a couple of cases because they clearly illustrate the problem that we have and the corrective action that is necessary.
Jackie Tran, whose country of origin is Vietnam, committed the following crimes: assault with a weapon, drug trafficking, drug possession and failure to comply with court orders. The sentences ranged in length from a $100 fine to two years less a day imprisonment. Did he appeal? Absolutely, he appealed. His removal order was completed in April 2004 but his removal actually took place in March 2010. For nearly six years, that individual took advantage of our system, used every appeal mechanism available to him and remained in this country. There are those who are in this process as we speak and who have again, while appealing to stay here in Canada, committed crimes.
Patrick De Florimonte from Guyana has been charged with multiple assaults with a weapon, assault causing bodily harm, uttering threats, multiple counts of theft, of drug possession, of drug trafficking and of failure to comply with court orders. His removal order was in October 2007. I stand here today and tell the House that that individual has not yet been removed from the country due to four and a half years of delay and running from his responsibilities. He is potentially committing crimes yet again in the country.
Gheorghe Capra has over 60 counts of fraud, forgery, conspiracy to commit fraud, obstructing a peace officer and failure to comply with court orders. His sentences ranged from two days to two years less a day. His removal order was September 2003. He was removed on January 2009 due to six years of appeal after appeal, not to mention the cost that we face in terms of moving through this process with these individuals.
Cesar Guzman was charged with the sexual assault of a senior citizen. He served 18 months in jail. His removal order was in May 2007. He was removed in April 2011 due to nearly four years of delay.
I could go on. There are example after example that are available to me and to anyone who wants to get a clear understanding of what has happened with this system over the past number of years and why it needs to change. It was by no accident that this policy, this platform, this legislation was included in the 2011 platform that we were elected on and the reason we are introducing it and carrying it through to second reading to get this bill to committee to be studied, then to have it come back to the House to be passed, then sent to the Senate for Royal Assent as quickly as possible so that we can put a stop to these types of examples that take advantage of our system, victimize people in our country and make a mockery of our system for those from other countries who believe that we can simply be taken advantage of. That will not occur anymore.
We have person after person who support this. Deputy chief, Warren Lemcke, of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police supports this bill and feels that it would help make Canadians and those who legitimately enter Canada safer.
The Canadian Police Association stated, ”This ensures that public safety is one of the considerations with respect to admissibility. To Canada, this is a clear step in the right direction”.
I have page after page of those who support this legislation.
I do not think this should take too long at committee. Rather, it should move through committee very quickly. It is clear that this is not an issue of partisanship. This is an issue of fairness and of treating those who want to take advantage of our system in the way that they should be treated. It is ensuring that it is fair to victims and to Canadians who would suffer as a result of these individuals being in Canada.
The opposition has already made comments. Both of our critics have made comments about the legislation. The government and I think that when a bill goes to committee it can always be improved. There is no question about it. However, they should be supporting the bill. If members want to make amendments that improve the bill, we will study them and look at them, but at the end of the day it is a bill that makes sense and it is one that has the overwhelming support of Canadians across the country. I look forward to it moving to committee.