Mr. Speaker, thank you for giving me time to speak to this bill.
Last week, after introducing a bill notable for its repressive and primitive ideology, supporting its position with rare exceptions and rejecting the official opposition's amendments, the government imposed a time allocation motion to cut off debate on Bill C-43. This behaviour is unacceptable. Clearly, the government wanted to muzzle MPs who would have liked to talk about this bill.
I believe that it is our duty to condemn the government's attitude at all stages of the legislative process for Bill C-43. The government has been narrow-minded, its arguments demagogic, its ideology backward and its approach undemocratic.
Rather than listen to criticisms put forward by the official opposition, groups advocating for the rights of refugees, and immigration lawyers, the government chose to impose its will unilaterally at the expense of genuine democratic debate. The Conservatives are flouting the humanitarian tradition that has distinguished Canada for decades, choosing instead to undermine the principle of basic human rights.
We agree that non-citizens who commit serious crimes in Canada must be dealt with quickly. However, we are concerned about the fact that this bill gives the minister vast discretionary power without appropriate checks and balances.
This approach is all the more regrettable given that Bill C-43 will soon have serious negative consequences on many fronts. First, the number of deportations will rise sharply, and some of those deportations will be outrageous. The most striking example of this is the measure stating that offenders' family members may be affected by deportation policies. Many individuals will be deported to countries where they have no ties just because the government refuses to recognize that the proposed measures are excessive and will short-circuit the usual legal process.
It is also important to note that Bill C-43 substantially broadens the notion of serious criminality, now characterized as crime punishable by a sentence of six months or more, conditional or otherwise, regardless of whether the crime was violent. For example, a first offence punishable by a six-month conditional sentence—the offender will not actually spend time in jail—will still result in the deportation of the offender.
The minister will bring in a double punishment, accompanied by removal and no chance for appeal regarding the deportation, which goes against our judicial principles.
Furthermore, as Alex Neve from Amnesty International Canada said, the lack of relief mechanisms means that the circumstances will not be taken into account. This type of situation shows that Bill C-43 makes no sense.
Amy Casipullai, the senior policy and public education coordinator for the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants, said that the restrictions could affect more visible minorities because of the racial profiling certain police forces engage in. Not only will visible minorities be more likely to be arrested, but now, they and their families could also be removed without appeal, without any recourse. But the Conservatives chose to ignore this reality and instead accuse the witness of siding with criminals.
Similarly, a number of experts, including lawyer Jean Lash, have said that people with mental illnesses sometimes commit crimes as a result of their illness. Michael Bossin, a refugee lawyer, also argues that people with mental illnesses would face undue hardship if they were deported to a country where mental illness is often stigmatized.
Since refugees from war-torn countries are more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress, it makes sense that people are concerned about how Bill C-43 will affect them. However, the Conservatives are stubbornly ignoring the reality on the ground and would rather disregard this aspect.
Other restrictions imposed by Bill C-43 make absolutely no sense. If people are prohibited from being accompanied to an interview with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, they are prevented from receiving advice and support throughout the process. This can clearly be a hardship for them.
Bill C-43 would also indiscriminately standardize the consequences of a misrepresentation. Whether or not a misrepresentation is deliberate, it results in a five-year inadmissibility.
All of the new discretionary powers granted to the minister, without any checks and balances, will create the potential for abuse.
We proposed an amendment to require the minister to be accountable and transparent regarding these discretionary powers. Unfortunately the Conservatives rejected this suggestion.
Based on public policy considerations, a concept that is not defined in the act, the minister will be able to label someone as a threat without any justification, without having to explain his decisions and, most importantly, without any checks and balances.
That is what happens with a bill that ignores criticisms, suggestions from the official opposition and comments from outside witnesses.
Bill C-43 will have disastrous results because of the significant flaws in the bill. It restricts the right of appeal without regard for the repercussions, curtails refugees' rights without consideration of our legal principles, expands the minister's discretionary power without any checks and balances and establishes a policy of mass deportation without consideration of the circumstances.
Instead of tackling the problems of serious criminality, the government is imposing a set of measures that will cause significant harm to individuals who do not deserve this type of treatment.
The Conservatives' determination to go it alone, to decide unilaterally and to avoid debate and discussion will have consequences. The first of these will be a defective policy whose flaws will surface quickly.
Bill C-43 is another stain on the Conservatives' immigration record.
The government's message is the following: the Conservatives will consider anyone who is not a bona fide Canadian to be a foreigner who cannot make a mistake. Even worse, not only can foreigners not make a mistake, but they will also be deported and, with this bill, their family can be booted out as well.
Canada has traditionally considered itself a country that welcomes immigrants and a leader in the protection of basic human rights.
The Conservatives are betraying this tradition by introducing a bill rooted in rhetoric that turns back the clock and makes unwarranted changes that will have serious consequences.