Mr. Speaker, I am glad to take part in this debate concerning the government's Bill C-43, also known as the faster removal of foreign criminals act.
I speak not only as a member of the immigration committee but also as the representative of a riding where people take great stock in and put great importance on the integrity of our immigration system.
Before I explain why I genuinely believe in the necessity of this legislation and consequently strongly oppose the amendments that have been put forward by the opposition in order to delay and gut the bill, I would like to relate to the House a story about a woman named Irene Thorpe.
Ms. Thorpe was a mother of two. Although I did not know her personally, she was also a daughter and a friend to many. She was actually described in a newspaper as having “a life apparently brimming with goodness”. On a very sad day in November 2000, she was killed.
Ms. Thorpe was killed while crossing the street. It happened too fast for her to see the car coming. She was killed by a man who was street racing, one of the most mind-numbingly irresponsible and reckless things someone can do in a car. The man behind the wheel was Singh Khosa. He was racing at about 140 kilometres per hour.
Ms. Thorpe and her dog were crossing a street where the posted maximum speed was 50. Singh Khosa's case was widely reported by news media over many years. He had been granted permanent resident status when he arrived in Canada as a teenager in 1996. What he did was beyond a mistake. It was careless. It was dangerous. It killed someone.
Irene Thorpe was a victim, and her family members were also victims. They will never be the same. Her children are growing up without their mother. What makes her story even more tragic is that her death was so easily avoidable. In 2002, after two years of court proceedings, Mr. Khosa was finally convicted of criminal negligence causing death. He was given a conditional sentence of two years less a day. That sentence, two years less a day, is worth noting, and I will describe why that is the case.
Based on his conviction, reckless and dangerous foreign criminal Singh Khosa was found to be inadmissible to Canada and was ordered deported in April 2003, but it took six years to clear all the roadblocks to remove him from the country. Why did it take so long?
It comes back to that sentence of two years less a day. Under our current system, a permanent resident who receives a sentence greater than six months but less than two years is subject to removal but still can appeal that removal to the Immigration Appeal Division of the Immigration and Refugee Board. It is worth noting that in cases like that of Mr. Khosa, two years less a day is a common sentence.
Not surprisingly, Singh Khosa took full advantage of his access to the appeals process. His appeal before the Immigration Appeal Division, and subsequent related hearings before various courts enabled him to delay his deportation for the better part of seven years.
Irene Thorpe was killed in a matter of seconds. We all know how her family felt about a seven-year appeal process to finally deport the person responsible, who was convicted beyond a reasonable doubt in the criminal courts.
As members of this House, we must keep the safety of Canadians at the forefront of our decisions and take action to repair a system that allows foreign criminals to delay their removal from this country for years and years. We must put the interests of victims and of law-abiding Canadians ahead of the interests of criminals.
Fortunately we have a great opportunity to do so by ensuring that the measures in the faster removal of foreign criminals act become the law of our land. There is a number of measures in this bill that would improve the system and create a greater sense of justice and fairness for victims of criminals such as Mr. Khosa.
As a lawyer myself who has stood for the human rights of Canadians in the courts of our land, I still believe we need to keep dangerous foreign criminals from having access to endless appeals to delay their deportation. We need to take them off the streets and out of our country. I sincerely urge my friends in the opposition to stop playing partisan games and to listen to victims organizations, police associations, immigration lawyers and experts and Canadians all across the country who have told us loudly and clearly that they support the faster removal of foreign criminals act.
These are not partisan issues. These are common sense issues. Without a doubt, these tough but fair measures are welcome and long needed. They improve the integrity of the immigration system without compromising its generosity.
Well-known media commentator Lorne Gunter put it well in a recent column when he wrote the following:
If you wish to move here and become a citizen.... Why should Canada have to keep you if you demonstrate your danger to the community during your probationary period?... It is not mean or hard-hearted to deny them citizenship and punt them from our shores more quickly.... If you want to come to Canada and make a new life, welcome. We love to have you. But if you commit a crime while awaiting citizenship, don't claim to be a victim if we make you leave.
An editorial in The Globe and Mail argued, and I quote:
—it is difficult to argue with the bill's main thrust. The immigration process can be enormously complex, but one principle should be fairly straightforward: The tiny share of immigrants and refugees who lack citizenship and are convicted of serious crimes on Canadian soil forfeit their right to be here.
I emphasize the word “tiny” to my friend across the way who suggested that this was to characterize a large number of people as criminals.
I do not imagine that too many Canadians would disagree with this editorial. In fact, I am sure that most Canadians would be shocked to know how easy it is under existing rules for foreign criminals to avoid removal for years on end.
Canadians are generous and welcoming people, but we have no tolerance for criminals and fraudsters abusing our generosity. Our Conservative government is putting a stop to foreign criminals relying on endless appeals to delay their removal from Canada, during which time they continue to terrorize innocent Canadians.
Once again, I appeal to all of my hon. colleagues in the New Democratic and Liberal parties to stop opposing this bill. Listen to Canadians and help us ensure the speedy passage into law. Today is a day we can stop Canadians from being victimized by dangerous foreign criminals who have avoided deportation and remain in the country due to a system that provides them with endless appeals.