Mr. Speaker, I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in this House today in support of Bill C-43, the faster removal of foreign criminals act.
As its name implies, this legislation would make it easier to remove dangerous foreign criminals from Canada and enhance the safety and security of all Canadians. Currently, foreign criminals can appeal their deportation if they receive a sentence of less than two years. Bill C-43 would restrict access to the Immigration Appeal Division at the Immigration and Refugee Board to those who receive a sentence of less than six months. This change would reduce the amount of time serious criminals may remain in Canada by 14 months or more, reducing their ability to delay their removal and commit more crimes on Canadian soil.
Serious criminality under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act is, in part, defined as a conviction for which a sentence of more than six months has been imposed. These changes are therefore more consistent with other provisions in our immigration legislation.
One high-profile case perfectly illustrates the glaring problem with our current system and why we need to further limit access to the IAD. Many Canadians are familiar with street racer, Sukhvir Singh Khosa, whose terrible crime and the infuriatingly slow removal process that happened afterwards were widely reported in the media. Hon. members will recall that in 2002, Mr. Khosa was convicted of criminal negligence causing death after he lost control of his vehicle and killed an innocent bystander while street racing in Vancouver. Obviously, this man was a danger to society having shown selfish and callous disregard for the safety of those around him. What was his sentence? It was a mere slap on the wrist in the form of a conditional sentence of two years less a day. With that one-day discount, he was able to delay his deportation for six years.
He was ordered deported from Canada in April 2003, but he was not deported until April 2009. It was the multiple levels of immigration appeals and the subsequent hearings before the Federal Court and the Federal Court of Appeal that enabled him to delay his deportation for so long. First the Immigration Appeal Division dismissed Mr. Khosa's appeal and the Federal Court upheld that decision. However, the Federal Court of Appeal then overturned the Federal Court's decision and ordered the Immigration Appeal Division to provide him with a new hearing. It was at this point that the government said that enough was enough and appealed this decision all the way to the Supreme Court, which, thankfully, allowed the appeal and restored the Immigration Appeal Division's original decision.
Under the current system, too many foreign criminals like Mr. Khosa have been sentenced to six months or more, but manage to game the system and delay their deportation for years on end, sometimes more than a decade, costing taxpayers money. Worst of all, many convicted foreign criminals have used the time they have bought appealing their deportation to reoffend, and sometimes commit even worse crimes. The fact these foreign criminals can freely walk our streets when they should have been sent home at the earliest opportunity should deeply disturb all Canadians.
Foreign criminals use appeals as a delaying mechanism and ordinary, law-abiding Canadians can only shake their heads in disbelief and disgust. Needless to say, when Canadians pick up a newspaper and read about dangerous foreign criminals who are still in Canada long after they have worn out their welcome, it erodes public confidence in both our justice and immigration systems. The bottom line is this: If someone is not a Canadian and commits a serious crime on our soil, that person should no longer have the privilege of living here. That is the law in Canada
The New Democrats and the Liberals think that deporting foreign criminals is somewhat unfair. They ask us to consider the hardships that the criminals and their families will face. Do these same critics ever stop to think about the hardships faced by the victims of these crimes? If they actually listened to the victims, they would be supporting the bill and not opposing it.
Victims' organizations across the country have voiced their support for Bill C-43. Sharon Rosenfeldt from the victim' rights organization, Victims of Violence, had this to say:
The government's action to date is that they have indeed listened to victims and to law-abiding Canadians who want our laws to differentiate between the majority of offenders for whom rehabilitation is a realistic option and the repeat offenders for whom the justice and correctional system is a revolving door, which does include foreign individuals who repeatedly break our laws....
We see Bill C-43 as a long-awaited piece of legislation which in part is designed to facilitate and make easier the entry into Canada for legitimate visitors and immigrants, while giving government stronger legal tools to not admit into Canada those who may pose a risk to our country. Most important to crime victims is the removal from Canada of those who have committed serious crimes and have been convicted of such crimes by our fair judicial system.
We agree with [the minister], who states that 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.
We also agree with [the minister] on due process and natural justice in the rule of law...that even serious convicted foreign criminals should get their day in court and that they should benefit from due process.
He agrees, as we do, that they should not be deported without consideration by the Immigration and Refugee Board. However, [that does not mean] they should get endless years in court and be able to abuse our fair process....
We strongly believe that if all the amendments in Bill C-43 are supported and implemented, the safety of Canadians will be further enhanced.
One of the few requirements for people to maintain permanent resident status in Canada is that they do not go out and commit a serious crime. We do not think that is too much to ask of people who are enjoying life in the greatest country in the world. With Bill C-43, we would streamline the process to deport convicted foreign criminals by limiting their access to the Immigration and Refugee Board's immigration appeal division. These measures would be tough but fair. We want an immigration system that would be open to genuine visitors, while at the same time preventing the entry of foreign criminals and those who would harm our country and denying them the ability to endlessly abuse our openness and our great generosity.
The bill would send a clear message to foreign criminals: If they commit a serious crime in Canada, we will send them packing as quickly as we possibly can.
The changes proposed in the faster removal of foreign criminals act would be reasonable, common sense measures that would ensure the safety and security of Canadians. I urge all hon. members of the House to join me in supporting Bill C-43 to help protect Canada's borders and Canadian society against those who pose a danger and take advantage of our great generosity.