Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise today to speak in support of Bill C-43, the faster removal of foreign criminals act.
This bill is very popular among all the Canadians I have spoken to, including the constituents of my riding, Mississauga East—Cooksville, whom I am very proud to represent.
It is difficult for me to understand how it is that the NDP and Liberals can oppose a bill which would help protect the safety and security of Canadians. I am disappointed that they are using amendments to delay and try to prevent the passage of such a necessary and important bill.
The reasons for this bill are strong and, unfortunately, numerous. Many of these criminals go on to commit more crimes while they are allowed to remain Canada.
We have already heard several examples of cases of foreign criminals who were able to delay their deportation. However, the list is so long that I feel it necessary to provide even more just to make it clear these examples are not extreme or rare cases. In fact, since 2007, an average of almost 900 appeals by serious criminals trying to avoid deportation have been made. This number is not insignificant. I would guess that Canadians would be quite shocked by this high number.
Dangerous foreign criminals like Jackie Tran from Vietnam have taken advantage of the endless appeal process under the current system. Despite committing assault with a weapon, drug trafficking and failure to comply with court orders, conveniently, he was convicted to two years less a day and, accordingly, able to appeal. This violent gangster who terrorized the city of Calgary was able to delay his deportation by an astonishing five years.
There is also the case of Gheorghe Capra from Romania. After being charged with over 60 counts of fraud, forgery, conspiracy to commit fraud, obstructing a peace officer, among other things, he was also sentenced to two years less a day. He used the endless appeal process to delay his deportation by over five years.
Finally, there is the case of Mr. Balasubramaniam from Sri Lanka. He was charged with assault with a weapon, drug trafficking, among other things and sentenced to only 18 months. He was able to delay his deportation by seven years.
The NDP and Liberals have repeated in the House that they do not think that drug trafficking is a serious crime, that they do not think that dangerous foreign criminals should be removed from Canada. However, I am confident in saying that Canadians disagree with the NDP and Liberals.
Canadians do not want people like Jackie Tran walking our streets. Canadians want to feel confident in the integrity of our immigration system. They want the government to put the interests of victims and law-abiding Canadians ahead of criminals.
I will take a moment here to talk about victims. The NDP and Liberals have used their entire speaking time today to claim that dangerous foreign criminals are victims and that the families of these dangerous foreign criminals are victims. They also claim that a six-month sentence should not result in someone being considered a serious criminal.
Very clearly the NDP and the Liberals are wrong. Innocent Canadians who are killed, sexually assaulted and robbed by these dangerous foreign criminals are the victims and the lives of their family members are forever altered because of these terrible crimes.
I have been clear in my support for Bill C-43. However, what is most telling about the bill is how much support it has received from a wide variety of stakeholders across the country, including police associations, victim rights organizations and immigration lawyers and experts.
Let me just give members a few of many supportive quotes from witnesses when they appeared before the immigration committee.
One of the most compelling witnesses that appeared was immigration lawyer, Julie Taub, who has actually represented foreign criminals in the past. This is what she had to say:
I have represented those who have been found to be criminally inadmissible to Canada, and I have gone to the Immigration Appeal Division to get a stay of removal for them, successfully in almost all cases.... Unfortunately, the majority of the clients I have represented reoffend or they breach their conditions.... I listen to their heart-felt apologies and promises, but time and time again they reoffend and they breach the conditions.
She goes on to say, “I really support this bill because criminals remain in Canada who are not Canadian, and it's almost impossible to deport them. There's no choice with Canadian citizens”.
Another immigration lawyer, Reis Pagtakhan, had this say to say:
The portion of the bill that deserves support is the provision that eliminates the right of permanent residents to appeal removals to the immigration appeal division for sentences of six months or more in prison. While some argue that this would unfairly penalize long-term permanent residents who may be deported for their actions, what is missed in this argument is that the permanent residents who face deportation are criminals. It should be stated that these individuals are not alleged criminals; they are not accused; they are not innocent. They have been convicted of a crime in a court of law.
Members of Parliament should also keep in mind that criminals could avoid deportation by simply being law-abiding. The Criminal Code of Canada is designed to codify what we Canadians view as criminal behaviour. These individuals have chosen the path of criminal behaviour...it is not too much to expect an individual who immigrates to Canada to respect the law. Frankly, it is not too much to expect Canadian-born individuals, such as me, to respect the law. We expect people to respect the law, and that is why we have a criminal justice system. People who break the law face consequences.
The Canadian Police Association president's testimony was also very compelling. He said:
Under the current regime, criminals who are currently serving a sentence of less than two years are eligible to file an appeal to the immigration appeal division. The CPA entirely supports the measures contained within this bill to reduce that time to sentences of less than six months. We also support the new measures that would make it more difficult for criminals,who have been sentenced outside of Canada to access the immigration appeal division.
These are common sense solutions that are necessary to help our members protect their communities. The problem has become that the criminals we catch are becoming increasingly aware of ways to game the system, abusing processes that were put in place with the best of intentions.
The issue for me as a front line officer and what I get from my members is this. I support fair process. It's obviously an important piece of our society and what Canada stands for, but you have to balance the rights of Canadians to live in their homes and not be afraid of being victimized against the rights of people who were convicted of serious criminal offences and whom we see all the time, particularly on the criminal side, continuing to commit offences while they're appealing. I say we shouldn't use Canadians as an experiment.
These are not my words. These are words from individuals who have first-hand, real-life experience with immigration law, with dealing with criminals and victims. They support Bill C-43.
Therefore, the opposition should not take it from me, but should listen to the experts and stop trying to prevent passage of the bill, which would help protect the safety and security of Canadians. I urge it to work with our Conservative government to support the speedy passage of the bill.