Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be part of this debate on Bill C-43, the faster removal of foreign criminals act.
The legislation would go a long way toward rectifying a situation that should cause Canadians great concern. There are far too many foreign criminals in Canada who manage to remain in this country long after they have been ordered deported. This highlights the need to reform our immigration appeals system, and that is exactly what Bill C-43 would do. That is why I am speaking today in favour of the bill and against the opposition amendments that have been put forward to try to prevent the bill from becoming law.
As long as they receive sentences of less than two years, permanent residents and certain foreign nationals who have committed crimes in Canada can appeal their removal orders from this country to the immigration appeal division of the Immigration and Refugee Board. I am talking about criminals convicted of serious crimes, including drug trafficking, weapons violations, domestic abuse, sexual abuse and more. As long as they have received a sentence of not longer than two years less a day, they can use the immigration appeals system to remain in Canada for what often turns out to be years.
Dealing with appeals from people who should not even be in the country squanders a vast amount of time, effort and public resources through our legal system. Worse than that, too many of these cases are tinged with tragedy. My colleagues have listed several examples of dangerous foreign criminals using the current system to delay their deportations, many of whom committed more crimes while they were allowed to remain in Canada. They have made strong arguments for why the provisions to deport foreign criminals are necessary and long overdue, so I will not use my time to duplicate these.
Instead I want to speak about portions of the bill that have not received much, if any, attention from the opposition. While the bill does make it easier to remove dangerous foreign criminals, it also includes other important provisions.
It makes it harder for those who pose a risk to enter Canada in the first place. Most members of the House will think I am only referring to the discretion provided to the minister in the bill to prevent those who seek to incite hate and violence but are currently admissible to Canada. In fact, I am referring to another part of the bill. I think Canadians would be shocked to learn that under our current system, if someone is found to be inadmissible on the most serious grounds of security, international or human rights violations or organized criminality, they can apply for permanent residency on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.
Yes, that is right. War criminals, terrorists and gangsters involved in organized crime can apply to permanently immigrate to Canada under compassionate grounds. Under Bill C-43, the government is putting an end to these despicable criminals having this avenue to apply to come and remain in Canada. This important change is consistent with the government's no safe haven policy and is more than overdue.
I am shocked to hear that the Liberals and NDP oppose this change and have called for the worst sorts of criminals to continue to have access to an avenue of appeal meant for people who have compelling cases but who are not otherwise eligible under our immigration laws. Furthermore, the opposition members' claim that the bill takes away the appeal and makes it harder to enter Canada shows they do not fully understand the bill. They have not once spoken to the portion of the bill that actually removes barriers for genuine visitors who want to come to Canada.
Let me explain that. Currently, if a family travels to Canada and it is discovered that one of the family members is inadmissible to Canada on non-serious grounds, for example medical reasons, the entire family is found inadmissible and denied entry into the country, even if the other members of the family are admissible. One can imagine that this causes a lot of frustration and can cost a lot of money and time for the families affected.
Under Bill C-43, the government is improving the current system. If and when the bill becomes law, if one member of a family is found inadmissible on non-serious grounds, the rest of the family will no longer be found inadmissible along with that inadmissible individual. Furthermore, the admissible family members would be allowed to enter Canada. Surely the opposition agrees with this change to facilitate the travel of low-risk genuine visitors to Canada. Yet they conveniently ignored this portion of the bill in the committee and in the debate today.
In fact, our Conservative government has taken several steps to facilitate the entry of low-risk genuine visitors to Canada. We introduced a multiple-entry visa, lifted visas from several countries and are introducing biometrics, which will help facilitate the identification and entry of legitimate visitors. In the first half of 2012 we have let in a record number of visitors to Canada.
The faster removal of foreign criminals act will indeed do just that. It will allow us to deport criminals faster. This is a very laudable and worthwhile change. However, it does a lot more than that. It will also ensure that war criminals, terrorists and organized gangsters are no longer able to apply to live in Canada permanently under humanitarian considerations. It ensures that Canada will no longer be a safe haven for those despicable criminals.
What has been almost completely ignored by the opposition is that the bill will help remove barriers to legitimate visitors to Canada.
Bill C-43 is part of our Conservative government's plan to transform Canada's immigration system. As a whole, our changes would move Canada away from the Liberal system, which was a slow, rigid system, riddled with long processing times and massive backlogs in which immigrants were facing unemployment and underemployment and criminals were using our country as a doormat to abuse our generosity. It will move to a system that is just-in-time, that processes applications quickly and attracts the immigrants our economy needs today and into the future, a system in which immigrants are working in their fields as soon as they arrive in Canada, a system in which those who pose a risk are prevented from entering Canada in the first place and in which foreign nationals who commit crimes are taken off the streets and swiftly deported.
Canadians have a long tradition of being welcoming. Our country is one of immigrants. I myself am one. However, in order to maintain that generosity, Canadians must have confidence and integrity in our system. They want to know that we are letting in honest, law-abiding visitors and immigrants while keeping out dangerous foreign criminals and others who pose a risk to the country. This is not too much for them to ask, and it is exactly what Bill C-43 strives to do.
I urge my Liberal and NDP colleagues to stop trying to prevent the bill from becoming law and instead to support our government in ensuring its speedy passage.