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House of Commons Hansard #151 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

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Before I go to the parliamentary secretary, I would just remind all hon. members to direct their comments and questions to the Chair rather than to their colleagues.

The hon. parliamentary secretary.

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Dykstra Conservative St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a fair question. When legislation is passed and discretion is given to the minister, questions certainly arise about how varying and how significant that scope of discretion is.

As an example, when we worked through the previous Bill C-31, one of the issues that we dealt with at committee addressed the same type of issue, in that case the discretionary power of the minister to determine a safe country of origin. Those applying for refugee status fall under a different category of application and appeal if they come and claim refugee status here based on their safe country of origin. We listed very specifically in the legislation exactly what the requirements would be for the minister to be able to designate a safe country.

I would suggest to my hon. friend from Toronto—Danforth that we would do the same with this piece of legislation. That is why, when we give discretionary powers to the ministers, it should be in the legislation and should not remain in the back of a regulation or deputation of some sort that is not laid out clearly in legislation.

The member will see that when the legislation comes forward.

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals ActGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to take part in this important debate on Bill C-43, which the government purports will lead to the faster removal of non-citizens who commit serious offences.

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.

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.

I made it clear when this legislation was first introduced that as a responsible opposition, we are ready to work with the government to ensure that criminals of all backgrounds are not allowed to abuse our appeal processes.

That being said, we have serious concerns about the bill being proposed here. We are concerned about both its effectiveness in dealing with the issue of non-citizen criminality, as well as its extraordinarily wide scope. Much like the Conservatives' crime legislation before it, we worry that Bill C-43 seeks to kill a fly with a sledgehammer, running the risk of both failing to deal with a problem and trampling on rights at the same time.

The minister has trotted out five sensational examples of non-citizens who have apparently abused the IRB appeals process to stay in Canada. On their face, these seem serious and, as the opposition, we are willing to examine them to ensure the public safety of all Canadians. However, there is a real risk, as I would hope the minister would agree, with making sweeping changes based solely on extraordinary cases. It may make good headlines and flashy press conferences, but it does not necessarily make for good public policy.

I must also point out that there are elements in the bill that seem to have merit and are worth further study. For example, Bill C-43 recognizes that entering Canada with the assistance of someone involved in organized criminal activity is not in itself adequate to determine inadmissibility. We think this makes good sense.

I have to say that I am a bit amazed that after an omnibus refugee reform bill and dozens of regulatory changes, the government did not make this change earlier. New Democrats have long called for better legislation to ensure that victims of trafficking are not caught up in rules intended to catch traffickers.

Additionally, we think it is reasonable to put people who are inadmissible on the grounds of security under conditions even when they are not detained. Again, we think these measures in Bill C-43 require much more study and scrutiny.

What are our main concerns with the substance of the legislation being proposed? First, we are concerned about yet another piece of government legislation that seeks to concentrate more arbitrary power in the hands of the minister. For example, Bill C-43 grants sweeping new powers to the minister to ban a foreign national from entering, leaving or being admissible, based on ambiguous public policy considerations. The last thing our immigration system needs is to be even more politicized than it already is.

The reality is that we have a good, independent system for determining admissibility and we do not need it to be replaced by the whim of the minister. The minister should not be able to keep out people who simply disagree with the government. In fact, it is ridiculous to believe that giving the immigration minister more power will solve anything at all.

On this side of the House, we believe that strengthening the independent judicial process is a better way to close a perceived loophole for criminals than concentrating yet more powers with the minister.

Our second major concern is the change in the definition of serious criminality under this legislation. Previously, serious criminality was defined as a crime subject to a sentence of two years or more. The bill before us seeks to change that to a sentence of six months or more. On face value, this may seem reasonable. After all, the 2010 and 2011 statistics on sentencing show that the most common offences to be encapsulated by the new definition would be sexual assault and robbery.

The minister will get no argument from me or my NDP colleagues that these violent crimes represent serious criminality. However, here is the rub. New sentences brought in by the Conservatives' crime legislation make a whole host of non-violent crimes subject to mandatory minimums that could drastically effect how we look at this legislation. As New Democrats, we strongly support greater study on this aspect of the bill so that Canadians can fully understand the impact of this change in definition.

The third concern is that Bill C-43 would not only apply to those convicted of serious crimes in Canada, but also abroad. While Canada is not perfect, it boasts one of the fairest judicial systems anywhere in the world. Other countries are not so lucky. Unfortunately, in many jurisdictions around the world simply being a member of an opposition party can get someone convicted of a serious crime. These cases, more than any other, highlight the need for due process before the law. We must make sure that Canada remains a welcoming beacon of hope for those fleeing persecution abroad.

Professionals who work with immigrants and refugees, as well as the diaspora groups, have also raised concerns that this legislation could unfairly punish the young and mentally ill. Again, a robust study at the committee level must ensure we get answers to these perplexing questions. We must ensure that no consequences, unintended or otherwise, hurt the most vulnerable among us.

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.

Perhaps the biggest concern the official opposition has with the legislation is that it is an attempt to turn the channel away from the other sweeping changes the minister is making to our immigration system. We worry that this is yet another attempt to vilify permanent residents in the minds of Canadians, focusing almost exclusive attention on a tiny minority to create the impression that newcomer communities are rife with cheats, queue-jumpers and criminals. This simply is not the case. The NDP stands with newcomers who want the government to focus on making the immigration system fairer and more accountable for the vast majority who do not commit crimes and who follow the rules.

The reality is that the Conservative government's radical overhaul of Canada's immigration and refugee system is turning us into a less welcoming country. These changes limit the possibility of newcomers to reunite with their families and stifle attempts to build stronger communities. Canada was built by the hard work of newcomers from all over the world and this continues to be the case. New waves of immigration are helping build thriving communities and a 21st century workforce. Unfortunately, instead of welcoming skilled immigrants and addressing Canada's long-term needs, the Conservative government is prioritizing temporary work visas to help big business pay lower wages. This is not how we built our country and it will not be the way to build the economy of the future.

The Conservatives have increased the number of temporary foreign workers by almost 200% while allowing employers to pay them 15% less than a Canadian worker would earn. These workers come here alone. They are not allowed to bring their families. After sending money back home, they themselves are forced to go back home. This does not build communities. One would think that if someone were good enough to work in Canada they would be good enough to stay, but not under the Conservative government.

Last week in question period I highlighted a recent report that points to shocking negligence on the part of the federal government in protecting migrant workers. Too often they are subject to systemic abuse due to federal immigration laws and provincial labour standards. At the same time, the government has pressed the delete button on more than 280,000 potential new Canadians in the skilled worker backlog. These are folks who have followed the rules and whose skills Canada's economy desperately needs.

In the 2011 election, the member for Calgary Southeast cleverly courted ethnic and cultural communities by learning and reciting greetings in a myriad of languages. He showed up at many functions and promised a kinder and gentler immigration policy. However, after the Conservatives won their coveted parliamentary majority, the Conservative message has been the same no matter what language one speaks: newcomers have little value outside of being economic units for cheap temporary labour. This is wrong.

In addition to being my party's critic for immigration, I am also a spokesperson for multiculturalism. It is a responsibility I take very seriously. I am honoured to represent Newton—North Delta, one of the most diverse ridings in the country. In addition to hard-working people who have called Canada home for many generations, it is blessed to have newcomers from all over the world who make our communities stronger, immigrants from India, Pakistan, the Philippines, China, Asia and all over Europe, just to name a few. All of them tell me their number one priority is to reunite with their families and build strong communities. They came to Canada with the hope of a better future and under the promise that they could eventually bring their families.

Unfortunately, the government has systematically dismantled the family reunification provisions of Canada's immigration system, including making it harder for spouses to become permanent residents. It has also stopped applications for parents and grandparents, preventing them from being reunited with their children and grandchildren. Many grandparents now pass away before they can come to Canada and hold their grandchildren in their arms for the first time. This is more than political for me, it is very personal. I am saddened by the direction the government is taking us in. I was fortunate to come to this country, bring my family and contribute to my community, but I wonder if my story is even possible under the Conservative changes.

Another issue of great concern to the people in my riding and right across the country is the arbitrary rejection of visitor visas. The rejection rate is huge and many in my riding have had their families prevented from attending weddings and, yes, even funerals. Many are given no reason and have no chance to appeal these decisions. I only wish the government would spend half as much time making our visitor visa system fair as it does on bills like the one we are discussing today.

I also want to address this bill in the larger context of the sweeping and mean-spirited changes the government has introduced to our refugee system, in particular changes to the interim federal health program. Last spring, with much fanfare, the government announced that it would cut health coverage to vulnerable refugee claimants. Backbench MPs on the other side have even sent ten percenter mailings home declaring an end to gold-plated coverage for refugees, but the reality is far less pretty.

The move effectively denies access to health care to many legitimate refugees whose families have limited or no financial means. Canada was built on the idea that we all have a responsibility to take care of one another, especially the vulnerable, but the Conservative government is targeting this very basic Canadian value. Frankly, it is unconscionable to think that my colleagues across the floor would deny refugees the basic right of health care, but there we have it. They are playing politics with people's lives.

The cuts to health care in the bill we are debating today are not the only drastic changes the government is making to refugee policy. Last week we learned that Fatemeh Tosarvanda, an Iranian woman in Canada, is facing imminent deportation despite evidence proving she faces adultery charges in Iran that, under Sharia law, could result in her being stoned to death. Under the Conservatives' draconian refugee reform package, all refugee claimants are now banned from applying for a pre-removal risk assessment within a year of receiving a negative answer on their claim, but the assessment is a second chance to consider whether it is truly safe to send a rejected claimant like Fatemeh back.

While considering this legislation, I would urge all of my colleagues to look at the bigger picture. We all want to protect our communities from criminal activity. My riding has seen first-hand the terror inflicted by guns, gangs and violence. However, we need to take a balanced approach, one that deals seriously with criminals and also creates the opportunities and hope that stops crime before it starts.

This summer it was revealed that the Conservative government is cutting 20% of federal funding for youth justice programs in Canada. It is cutting over $35 million used to supervise and rehabilitate young offenders. What kind of a crime prevention strategy is that?

Furthermore, the government is failing to deliver on its promise to put more police on the streets in our vulnerable communities. In my province of B.C., 42 staff who supported the work of the RCMP have received notices stating that they could lose their jobs. Cutting people who help our front-line police officers is no way to prevent crime and make our communities safer.

We must ask ourselves why the government is not focusing on making our communities safe from criminals of all backgrounds rather than focusing so much attention on demonizing newcomers.

When it comes to the legislation before the House today, I strongly believe that we can prevent non-citizens who commit serious crimes from abusing our appeal processes without trampling on their rights. I am willing to work with the government to ensure a balanced approach. My New Democrat colleagues and I stand firmly with newcomers, who think we should focus more time and legislative effort to make sure the immigration system is faster and fairer for those who do not commit crimes.

As I mentioned earlier in my speech, the vast majority of newcomers follow the rules and they deserve the House's attention. It is time for the government to treat immigrants as the nation builders that they are and offer them a fairer, easier way to be reunited with their loved ones. Unfortunately, too much time and too many press conferences are being dedicated to creating a false impression of Canada's diverse newcomer community.

Bill C-43 is another wide-ranging bill that covers a huge number of issues. We had hoped to see the end of bills made up to change the channel in favour of a better thought-out bill by the minister.

Since I have come to Parliament I have seen a myriad of changes. It seems almost on a weekly basis there are changes to regulations and there are new bills. What we need is a coherent, fair, equitable and transparent immigration policy that would help us to build on the strengths that newcomers bring to us, not this haphazard approach.

Let us carefully consider this legislation but let us also refocus our efforts on making Canada the welcoming, compassionate place that it once was and can be again.

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

St. Catharines Ontario

Conservative

Rick Dykstra ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure where to start. That was a 20 minute speech that went over a vast area of immigration but said virtually nothing about Bill C-43.

The member went on to explain the ideology of the NDP in a haphazard way in terms of the direction that party would like to take, and criticizing us no doubt. It is the opposition's responsibility to criticize but it is also the opposition's responsibility to come up with alternatives, to seek amendments, to try to strengthen a piece of legislation, not simply to sit on the other side and criticize with no fundamental understanding of what the true direction should really be.

With respect to Fatemeh, the Iranian individual who is applying for refugee status, the member knows full well that deportation has been put on hold based on the system that we have that treats every individual the same. When new information is gathered, there is the opportunity for that individual or her representation to further seek relief here in Canada. To suggest in any way, shape or form that the individual has been deported is incorrect.

When we are talking about minor offences, we are talking about assault with a weapon, sexual assault, robbery, break and enter. I would really like the member to define what she sees as a minor offence of over six months that should remove someone from falling under this new legislation. The member did not mention it in her speech.

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, let me be very clear that we are fully prepared to work with the government to ensure a fair and judicious removal of non-citizens who commit serious crimes that endanger our communities.

One thing I will put back to him is that we are looking forward to going to the committee stage, coming to terms with and at least receiving clarity from the government as to what it means by “serious crimes”. We will be asking those questions. We will have amendments at that stage.

We are very concerned by the wide net this piece of legislation casts, and also the image that newcomers are rife with criminality.

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to take this opportunity to pose a question in the hope that the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism might actually be listening to what is happening on his bill inside the chamber, given that it has just been introduced.

I will put this in the form of a question that I tried to get answered by the parliamentary secretary. I will use a specific example. Based on the legislation, in my interpretation of the legislation, if one is a father living in another country, has a child who immigrated to Canada four or five years ago, and now wants to visit that child, he can apply for a visiting visa. If he has another child who is still in his home country and who was involved in organized crime, he will not be given the opportunity to visit his child who immigrated to Canada. That is how I read the legislation.

I ask the hon. member if she believes my interpretation is correct.

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, as we take a look at this bill, that is an area of great concern.

We have always believed that one should not punish other people for crimes committed by someone else. These are the kinds of questions we will be asking at the committee stage, trying to get clarity. These give us a great deal of concern. My colleague is rightfully worried about this.

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, my concern really lies with the concentration of power in the hands of a minister, which is discretionary over the admission of temporary residents. I think back to that particular minister and his record in revoking the admission of George Galloway, which then went through the court in Ontario. The judge came back and castigated the minister for what he had done.

With this kind of power now residing in the hands of the minister, does it mean that, for public policy purposes, he could prevent politicians and journalists he did not like and people of that nature from entering this country?

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, when we look at this bill, this is one of the key areas of concern: so much arbitrary power rests with the minister to declare people inadmissible. Therein lies the rub. What it says is for “public policy” reasons. Public policy is a huge area. What kind of public policy? What aspect of public policy?

Once again, why would we put in the hands of a minister so much power, even over people who can visit, be a tourist in this country? That is what temporary visas are all about; they are given to tourists.

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals ActGovernment Orders

September 24th, 2012 / 12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Clarke Conservative Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, having served in the RCMP for over 18 years, I know the challenges the RCMP and any police force face in serving and protecting Canadians, especially in the streets, against the day-to-day activities of criminals.

I am going to ask a very simple question. I hope my colleague from across the floor can answer it. We have heard that the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the Canadian Police Association and Victims of Violence are among many organizations that support Bill C-43.

I am going to ask the hon. member a very clear and simple question. Yes or no, does the hon. member and her party support the views of these organizations on this bill?

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, we absolutely support processes and a judicious way of removal and a very fair, open and transparent way of removing criminals from the country, but at the same time, we want to make sure there is due process and people do get to have their say

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am somewhat disappointed in the fact that the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism was not prepared to introduce the bill, given the fact that prior to coming into the chamber he was at a press conference, which both the NDP critic and I were able to observe, at least in part, and then also participate in, because the minister does not have a problem with appearing at press conferences and talking about this legislation. I guess it is because he wants to send that tough message that is very much anti-immigrant, I would argue. If we want to be fair to all political parties in the chamber, there is very little sympathy for violent repeat offenders who choose to continually break our law, and we too would like to see those individuals deported from our country.

Where we disagree is that we believe we need to treat the more than 1.5 million permanent residents in Canada with a great deal more respect. I was able to watch the minister. In the his backgrounder it says foreign criminals. When we use the word “foreign” we are really talking about permanent residents, but it gives that extra tough talk image by saying foreign criminals. The minister provided five examples in the backgrounder he attached to his press release and indicated the name of Jack Tran as number one. Reference is made to five individuals and they are the top five reasons why we have the bill before us. I would suggest there is a need for us to look at ways in which we can improve the system so we do not have individuals like Jack Tran and Patrick de Florimonte and the other three listed abusing our system.

I agree that we need to deport these individuals and the sooner the better. I emphasize that we have more than 1.5 million permanent residents in Canada, the vast majority of whom are wonderful outstanding citizens of our country. They might not have their actual citizenship today, and the government should take some blame for that because nowadays it takes two years to get citizenship when it should take no more than four to six months. That is an issue for another day, but it emphasizes where the minister has failed in terms of recognizing what is important and what should be the priorities in dealing with issues that immigrants have to face day in and day out.

The vast majority of that 1.5 million plus permanent residents have excellent behaviour and contribute to the well-being of our society both economically and socially. With that large number of people, it would be highly irresponsible for the government or anyone to believe there are not going to be some who fall on the other side of the law, who are going to be offensive. One could argue that many of those who fall on the other side of the law would be fairly reprehensible individuals who may be abusive, may be repeated violators of the law. We recognize that and we want to expedite and get those individuals away from Canada or look at the deportation issue.

That very minute percentage not only upsets me and the Liberal caucus and Canadians as a whole, but we have to deal with them and look at ways in which we can make changes to legislation so we can accommodate them. Let us not tarnish everyone because of that minute number of people.

We need to recognize what this legislation would do, in saying from two years to six months for an appeal. There are all sorts of crimes that it would now take into consideration. They include common assault, fraud under $5,000, theft under $5,000, possession of a stolen property under $5,000, trespassing at night, public mischief, flight from a peace officer. There is a litany of offences.

There is a responsibility, and we under-utilize the citizenship and immigration committee. There are things that the committee could be doing, and maybe we should be looking at and assessing the issue we are trying to deal with today in the form of legislation. It would have been nice for the committee to have dealt with that specifically in the last couple of years so we could provide better legislation that would not have labelled or generalized all permanent residents. Maybe there is a better way in which we could have achieved what the government was hoping to achieve, at least in part, by working together to produce a better piece of legislation.

Thinking it through, what does this legislation mean? A person could be a permanent resident in Canada for 10 months or for 10 years and commit an offence. Focusing attention on 10 years, maybe the person is married with two or three young children, possibly born in Canada. One night that person is at a function or event, maybe a celebration, and drinks too much, ending up in having an assault charge placed against him or her. Quite often assault charges will lead to some form of six-month sentence and that means the individual could be deported. Not the entire family, but just that individual could be deported. Members say, “yes, if he is convicted, yes”. He has been here for 10 or 12 years, has been an outstanding citizen, finds himself in a situation that many Canadians from coast to coast get into and makes an emotional decision. Yes, it is a bad decision but stuff of that nature does happen, I agree. However, with this particular legislation, we would deport.

What the member is recognizing by just his general acknowledgement of the fact is that this individual would be deported. The children who were born here in Canada would be able to stay and the spouse would be able to stay, but he would be deported.

We have to put some things into proper perspective here. I suggest there might have been more room for a number of the changes the government has been acting on, where we get more people involved, more stakeholders including members of opposition parties, in some of the policy discussions prior to bringing in the legislation. I believe there are circumstances when it might be in Canada's best interests that we respect that, out of the more than 1.5 million permanent residents, there could be some incidents that occur in which it is not in the best interests to deport the individual.

This is opposed to taking the extreme, which the minister is so effective at doing, and saying what a terrible individual Jackie Chan is. No one would question that. However, instead of taking the extreme, maybe we should be looking at the majority and recognize that it is out of 1.5 million permanent residents. Canadian society as a whole has a lot of crime committed and there are consequences. No one is denying that there needs to be a consequence to a crime.

The other thing the government wants to do through this proposed legislation is give more power to the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism. It is almost as if he has been neglected over the last while. The Minister of Immigration just wants more and more power. We should remember that the Minister of Immigration is the minister who said that he did not need a world-class advisory body that has human rights professionals to help Canada determine what is or is not a safe country in the world. The Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism feels that he can do it and that Canadians do not need to worry about it. He is also the minister who said that he can identify an irregular arrival from any grouping of two or more people who come to Canada.

Trust me when I say that no one wants to be offside with that particular minister or one can be in a lot of trouble, especially with that kind of designating ability. Now the minister wants to have the responsibility to deny someone outright to come to Canada. I would suggest that there needs to more accountability and checks put in the place for the department of immigration. That is a very important aspect of the bill that needs to be looked at.

I raised the issue of visitor visas for a good reason. I share many of the comments that the New Democrat immigration critic put on the record in regard to a lot of frustration with the visitor visas. There is a great deal of frustration out there. I have brought forward petitions to the House regarding visitor visas and, for whatever reason, the government has been spinning its wheels in dealing with visitor visas.

This is exceptionally frustrating because there are individuals living abroad, parents and siblings, who want to visit family here in Canada for good reasons. Some want to see the environment in which their family members are living. Some may want to participate in wedding celebrations, graduations, family reunions and even funerals. I am always amazed by the sheer number of people I meet through my office and outside as critic for immigration who are trying to see a family member. Members would be surprised by the numbers. One can point to Chandigarh as an example of where I believe there is now about a 51% approval rating. Percentages aside, there are far too many families that are being denied the ability to come to Canada.

Why do I raise that on this particular bill? I posed a question to the parliamentary secretary and asked that the message get to the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism. I have asked the question in two briefings that I have had but I have not been provided an answer as of yet. The question is: What impact would this legislation have on immigration offices around the world in terms of being able to process in a timely fashion visitor visas?

I gave the example of a father to the New Democratic critic for citizenship and immigration and I provided a bit more detail to the parliamentary secretary. I anxiously await what will, hopefully, be a positive answer on that issue.

Unfortunately, however, it looks as though a lot more background work will need to be done. If that is the case, then the government had better be prepared to put in the additional resources so that things can continue to be done in a timely fashion in terms of the granting of visitor visas.

That is not to say that the Liberal Party is not concerned about the individuals who are visiting Canada. We also want to ensure that the individuals who are coming here are of good character, in good health and so forth. We are concerned about this legislation having a significant impact with very little end-of-day results.

The issue of misrepresentation is always a challenging one. I deal with a number of immigration cases. I enjoy doing immigration work. I have done it for many years, both in my capacity as a member of the Manitoba legislature and now as a member of Parliament. I enjoy helping people deal with immigration and the many problems involved in immigration. If there is anyone inside this chamber who believes that misrepresentation does not occur, they are wrong. Now that statement does not necessarily surprise members. However, I suspect that they are underestimating the amount of “misrepresentation” that has actually occurred where individuals have been successful.

Right away, one would say that we should batten down the hatches and get rid of that misrepresentation. However, people need to understand the many different forms of misrepresentation. I would argue that, in some cases, there is almost encouragement to misrepresent from surprising places. I am not just talking about immigration consultants or lawyers. It might even be somewhat surprising when there are implications that it might even involve levels of government that would ultimately lead to some mild form of misrepresentation taking place.

I had an individual who had two children but said that he had only one child when he came here. The reason in this particular case was that the man had a child with another woman and was not prepared to share that with his wife when they put in their application because it had occurred years prior.

I am not going to advocate whatsoever that individuals have the right to misrepresent themselves. There is an obligation, which we need to enforce to the best of our abilities, that people do not misrepresent themselves when they are putting in these applications.

However, I am interested in knowing why the government made the decision to go from two to five years. I have numerous examples that I could share at the committee stage as to why it is that maybe one might want to give some consideration as opposed to an outright ban. I suspect that we would find many Canadians, if not most Canadians, in certain situations, who would be surprised to hear some of the stories with regard to misrepresentation.

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

St. Catharines Ontario

Conservative

Rick Dykstra ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, what I was hoping to hear from one of our critics was some positive amendments that would strengthen Bill C-43.

I just heard another speech about how much the opposition members have so many other issues that they think are a priority, and that this is not one they want to talk about while the bill is actually being debated in the House of Commons.

At the beginning of his statement, the member said that he had been ambushed by the bill, that this bill came upon him without any knowledge. The member then answered his own question by stating that he had had two full briefings on the bill. The member did acknowledge that he was never ambushed. He has had every opportunity to be briefed by department officials, myself or whoever. If he would like to hear more about the bill, he will get to do that at committee.

However, for the member to suggest that he was ambushed, perhaps he was busy and did not spend a whole lot of time working on the bill. I cannot speak for the member but I know he does a good job for his constituents.

I do want to know one thing from the member. The member is concerned about the jurisdiction the minister would have in terms of being able to say to an individual that he or she is not welcome in Canada and about the minister being granted the authority to do so. I have indicated that it will be stated clearly in the legislation how that will work.

In October 2011, the National Assembly of Quebec passed a unanimous motion demanding that the federal government deny entry into Canada of Abdur Green and Hamza Tzortzis due to their comments encouraging hate and violence against women and homosexuals. Currently, the minister has no jurisdiction to deny or fulfill that request from the assembly. Does the member believe that the minister should or should not have that kind of jurisdiction to be able to deny these types of individuals access to our country?

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I do not know where the member would have gotten the impression that I was surprised that the bill was being debated today. There was no surprise there whatsoever. If he wants to talk about the surprise, that happened back at the end of June in the winding days of the session. It might have been within the last week or the last few days of the session when the minister had a press conference saying that the government would deal with foreign criminals and then listed his top five foreign criminals. That came out of virtually nowhere.

We have had lots of time to look at the bill and, as the member pointed out, I even had the opportunity to have a couple of briefings on the bill itself.

I indicated that I was surprised that the minister himself, representing the government, did not speak first given the fact that we were just outside having a press conference. This speaks to the priorities of the House of Commons versus posturing. That is something that ultimately the minister himself will need to provide comment on and I am sure he will come up with some dandy excuses for us.

In regard to the ministerial power, I do not have the same level of confidence as the parliamentary secretary does with regard to the minister. I believe there needs to be a check put into place to ensure there is more accountability on this particular issue for the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism to be responsible to.

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

NDP

Jamie Nicholls NDP Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, this bill relieves the minister of the responsibility to examine humanitarian circumstances that take into account the interests of children involved in potential deportations.

Could the member outline some problems with this approach?

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I tried to pick up on that particular point. There is no doubt that we will see permanent residents who have been living in Canada for maybe 10, 15, 20, 25 years. They should not be criticized. Sometimes there is a valid reason that they were not able to get their citizenship or why they have postponed getting their citizenship but they have families and they contribute to our economy and our social well-being.

However, for whatever reasons, those people sometimes fall on the other side of the law. It could be some sort of an emotional night that takes place at a club or something of that nature that ultimately leads to that person being convicted of something and sentenced to six months or more. In that situation, this legislation would deport the person but the young children and mom would stay here in Canada.

I suspect that the minister could even attempt to justify that, but it is important to know that, in his top five reasons that we have this bill before us, it takes the extreme cases. It does not deal with some of the other more common cases that come before us every so often.

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture

Mr. Speaker, I have been listening to my colleague across the way twist himself out of shape trying to defend the indefensible.

I would like to raise a few points. The first is that being in Canada is a privilege. If a foreign criminal is guilty of a criminal act, the member is advocating that there should be no consequences, that the person should retain the privilege of being in Canada. That is absurd, both to me in the House and Canadians.

If a foreign criminal is responsible for a criminal act here in Canada, who is the victim? Canadians are. The member is advocating that a foreign criminal who commits a criminal act here in Canada and victimizes Canadians should retain the privilege of staying in Canada. How does the member defend that position?

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, if the member wants to have a good, challenging debate on who is tougher on crime, I would welcome that debate with the member. I would even go to his riding if he wanted to have that debate before his constituents. When it comes to being tough on crime, I am prepared to get tough on crime. However, I am also prepared to get tough on preventing crimes from taking place in the first place.

Having said that, here is where we differ somewhat. A permanent resident who has been in Canada for 20 years and is at a celebration, maybe a 15th wedding anniversary, and drinks a bit too much and gets behind the wheel and gets ticketed for drinking and driving is guilty of a criminal offence, which makes him a criminal. According to the member, forget the six months: he is a criminal, deport the guy. That is the attitude of many of the Conservatives. It does not matter if it is the first time he has ever committed an offence, but because he has blown the 0.06 breathalyzer test level, the member is prepared to deport him. What kind of an--

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Trinity--Spadina.

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, since 2000 and 2003, when the Liberal government was in control of the immigration department, the Auditor General has said that the department has had no idea whether people are being deported or not. The department has been unable to track those who are supposed to be deported. The system between the Canada Border Service Agency and Immigration Canada has not been coordinated, the IT or computer systems do not talk to each other, and there has been very little training and therefore no tracking of who has been inadmissible and who has supposed to have left.

Through the years, it looks like the former government has been gone missing in dealing with people who are supposed to be deported and who are inadmissible. What plan does the member have to make the system better?

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it was well over a year ago that I challenged the government about why it is not tracking the people who leave Canada. This is something that other countries have been doing for a few years.

It is most unfortunate that the member tries to assign blame to the Jean Chrétien years. At the end of the day, situations and issues arise. I can assure the member that whether it was Jean Chrétien or any other member of the Liberal caucus, we take these issues very seriously and when these do come up we want to see solutions and would work with the stakeholders to try to fix the system.

We have been arguing for some sort of monitoring of exits for well over a year. I have been personally aware of this need for well over a year, having been talking about it since that time and well before the legislation came forward.

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Calgary Southeast Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney ConservativeMinister of Citizenship

Mr. Speaker, unfortunately I was unable to speak at the beginning of the debate because I had a meeting with the foreign secretary of the United Kingdom, a meeting that could only take place an hour ago. Therefore, I seek the unanimous consent of the House to permit me, as the minister moving the bill, to speak at this point.

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Does the hon. minister have the unanimous consent of the House to speak at this time?

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

Jason Kenney Conservative Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the indulgence of the House. As members will know, I make a point of attending all debates on bills for which I am responsible. I take the importance of ministerial presence in these debates very seriously and so I appreciate the indulgence of the House in this respect.

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-43 is an important measure to strengthen the integrity of Canada's immigration system. We call it the Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act. We all know that Canada welcomes newcomers from around the world. Since coming to power, this government has accepted more immigrants than any other government in Canadian history: over a quarter of a million per year, or 14% more than the previous Liberal government. We have also maintained the highest per capita immigration rate in the developed world. This means that we add approximately 0.8% of our population through immigration every year. We have also increased the number of resettled refugees by 20%. We will be inviting more than 14,000 additional convention refugees to settle in Canada, which will give us the highest refugee resettlement rate in the world.

Our government has also tripled funding for settlement and integration services for new immigrants. We have done so much to help immigrants integrate and succeed.

When I work closely with new immigrants to Canada, I listen to them when they say that they want an immigration system that is fair and in keeping with our laws. That means that they want an immigration system that is based on the rule of law. They do not want anyone who poses a threat to the safety of our communities to come to Canada or to remain here. They want a system that welcomes newcomers from all over the world who want to come here, obey our laws, build Canada, contribute by paying taxes and respect Canada. New Canadians have no patience for those who come here to abuse the generosity of Canada and Canadians.

That is what I hear from new Canadians all around the country, that they and all Canadians, whether born here or newly arrived, treasure our country's historic posture of openness to the hard work and talents of newcomers, including refugees from persecution. At the same time, Canadians, especially those who came to this country from abroad, have no patience with those who would violate our laws or abuse our country's generosity. That is why we brought forward Bill C-43, the faster removal of foreign criminals act, which seeks to make several amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. These are designed, on the one hand, to facilitate and make easier the entry into Canada of legitimate visitors and immigrants and, on the other hand, to give us stronger legal tools to bar from Canada those who may pose a risk to this country and to remove from Canada those who have committed serious crimes and been convicted of such by our fair judicial system.

Allow me to review the provisions of the act. First, with respect to facilitating the admission of bona fide visitors and immigrants, the bill seeks to narrow the breadth of the inadmissibility provision for espionage to focus on activities carried out against Canada or that are contrary to the interests of Canada.

Quite frankly, this has the effect of covering those who may have been involved in espionage for close democratic allies of Canada and who may in fact have been gathering intelligence on behalf of Canada against common security threats. We believe that the wording in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act is unnecessarily broad and that we ought to focus the inadmissibility provision with respect to espionage on those who have been engaged in spying contrary to the interests of Canada.

Second, the bill would permit the temporary entry of persons with an inadmissible family member, except where the family member is inadmissible for security, human or international rights violations, or organized criminality.

There could be a family, for example, that has applied to visit Canada but has one medically inadmissible family member, that is to say, someone who according to officials and a medical exam might pose an excessive burden on Canada's taxpayer-funded public health system. In that case, under the current law, the entire family, all members, would be rendered inadmissible because they are considered as a package, as it were. This amendment would allow us to sever the one inadmissible person from that group, so that the other family members could still be admissible to Canada. This is a measure that has been broadly supported by immigration practitioners and others who see the unnecessary breadth of the currently law.

Third, the bill provides express authority for the Minister of Public Safety to grant ministerial relief on the minister's own initiative. This is to say that if our legal system, let us say the Canada Border Services Agency, which is delegated by me under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, finds that someone is inadmissible, there is a lengthy, time-consuming process to seek relief from the minister. This clarifies that the minister could take that initiative, and it streamlines the relief process for legitimate and bona fide visitors or immigrants.

I will now talk about measures in the bill that will strengthen the integrity of the system and protect the safety of Canadians.

First, the bill will create a new authority for the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism. The minister will be able to deny temporary resident status to foreign nationals for up to three years based on public policy considerations.

This would allow the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, on public policy grounds, to deny admission to Canada for up to three years to a foreign national who otherwise may be admissible. This is a very delicate part. It is a very delicate proposal that we are making, and I really to hope that the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration will focus on this particular proposal to help guide me, frankly, and the government as to how we can construct criteria, either by ministerial order or published regulations or perhaps even an amendment to the bill itself that would help us address, let me call them, really exceptional or extraordinary circumstances.

Under the current law, a foreign national is typically inadmissible only if he or she has a criminal record in a foreign country for crimes that would also be considered serious in Canada. That excludes political prisoners, because so-called political crimes with trumped up charges are not a crime in Canada. Or, if they are or have been a member of a criminal organization or a banned terrorist group or, as I mentioned before, have been involved in espionage or may pose a serious security risk to Canada, he or she is inadmissible, or if they are medically inadmissible, and some other categories.

Here is the problem. From time to time we get people seeking admission to Canada who may not have a criminal record abroad, but who may actually be coming here to incite hatred and violence, or to incite terrorism.

I will give the example of two British nationals, I believe, named Abdur Raheem Green and Hamza Tzortzis. Last year, they came to Canada even though they had a horrible record of promoting hatred against women, homosexuals, gays and lesbians, Jews and certain other minorities. A number of Canadians were afraid that the men intended to come to Canada to incite hatred, violence and perhaps even terrorism. Under current laws such persons cannot be prevented from entering Canada. For example, in some countries, it is not a crime to promote hatred against Jews or homosexuals.

This bill would give the minister the discretion, with certain limits, to prevent certain foreign nationals from entering Canada if they plan to promote violence, even though it is not a crime in their country of origin.

This is something we will have to study in more detail when the bill is before the standing committee.

Second, the bill seeks to 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 and also bar those who are convicted of an offence or have committed an act outside Canada, which if committed in Canada would carry a maximum sentence of at least 10 years. Perhaps this is my colleague's most important element of the bill.

Let me explain. The perpetually angry member for Winnipeg North and sadly misinformed Liberal critic for immigration was outraged with the suggestion that we should deport foreigners in Canada who had been convicted by Canadian courts of a serious crime, punished and given a sentence of six months or more.

Apparently and regrettably, the Liberal critic is not aware of even the basics of the current immigration law. The Immigration Refugee Protection Act, adopted in 2002, when his party was in government, says that if a foreign national is convicted of a crime with a sentence of six months or more, he or she is subject to deportation. That is what the current law states.

Here is the problem. Because the Liberals were more concerned about the procedural rights of criminals than public safety, they allowed for a loophole, which was that people who were convicted of a crime of six months or more as foreign nationals would be subject to deportation. However, if the sentences were two years or less, so somewhere between six months and two years, they could appeal the deportation order to the Immigration Appeal Division.

How does this work? I have a case wherein a foreign national, Cesar Guzman, raped a Canadian senior citizen. He was convicted of sexual assault. His sentence was 18 months in jail. He managed to delay his deportation for four years, meaning that this man who sexually assaulted a Canadian senior, this foreigner, was walking our streets posing a risk to other Canadians. Why? Because after his conviction, he would have gone to the Immigration Division of the Immigration Refugee Board that would have ordered his deportation pursuant to the current provisions in IRPA. Then he would have used the Liberal delay tactic. He would have appealed that deportation order to the Immigration Appeal Division. I do not have his whole chronology here, but I am sure, because I have seen this hundreds of times, he would have lost at the Immigration Appeal Division and then appealed that to the Federal Court. If he was really aggressive, like some of these other characters who we have seen, he would have appealed that negative decision to the Federal Court of Appeal.

If we add up each of those appeals, what does that mean in concrete, real world terms? It means violent foreign criminals, convicted by Canadian courts of law, are walking our streets when they should no longer be in Canada because they have lost the privilege of being here. That is the point the member does not seem to understand. To be a foreign national in Canada, whether as a visitor or as a permanent resident, is a privilege. It is not a hard one to keep. All we ask of the individual is two things: first, if that individual wants to maintain permanent residence, he or she has to live here for two out of five years; and, second, that the individual not commit a serious crime.

The vast majority of new Canadians will never commit a serious crime and they therefore have no tolerance for the small minority who do, who have lost the privilege to stay in Canada. I agree, because I am as committed, as any member of the House, to due process and natural justice in the rule of law. I agree that even serious convicted foreign criminals should get their day in court. I agree that they should benefit from due process. I agree that they should not be deported without consideration by the Immigration and Refugee Board. However, I do not agree that they should get endless years in court and be able to abuse our fair process. With this bill, we would put an end to that abuse.

We have cases like in my own hometown of Calgary. Calgarians, especially those in the Vietnamese community, were outraged.

The member for Winnipeg North is laughing—