moved that Bill S-8, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, to make consequential amendments to other Acts and to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, for almost 10 months, Canadians have watched in shock and horror at Russia's unjust, abhorrent and illegal invasion of Ukraine. On February 24, 2022, without provocation, Russian forces initiated this egregious step, which is a blatant violation of international law, the charter of the United Nations and the rules-based international order.
The attacks have caused widespread devastation of Ukrainian infrastructure and property, as well as unnecessary deaths of Ukrainians, including civilians.
These actions are a continuation and acceleration of the violent steps taken by Russia since early 2014 to undermine Ukrainian security, sovereignty and independence. The Government of Canada is committed to supporting those fleeing the destruction and devastation in Ukraine and to providing a safe haven for those fleeing their war-torn home country.
As we said since the beginning, whether it is military, political or economic support, Canada will continue to be there for Ukraine and hold Russia accountable. In the face of such brazen disregard for the international order, the Government of Canada has responded to the Russian invasion of Ukraine through the use of economic measures, including sanctions, to send a clear and unequivocal message that the aggression displayed by the Russian regime will not be tolerated.
These measures apply pressure on the Russian leadership to end its senseless war, which has resulted in the loss of thousands of lives and caused indescribable suffering to the people of Ukraine. These measures are the latest example of Canada's unwavering commitment to Ukraine and its people.
Since the invasion of Ukraine commenced in February, the Government of Canada has imposed sanctions under the Special Economic Measures Act on almost 1,200 individuals in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.
Further targeted sanctions are planned in response to Russian aggression, demonstrating that Canada is a leader in the international effort to hold Russian leaders accountable for this violent and unprovoked attack on Ukraine.
More recently, the Government of Canada imposed additional sanctions under SEMA against Iranian officials in response to the Iranian regime's ongoing grave breaches of international peace and security and gross human rights violations. These breaches and violations include its systemic persecution of women and, in particular, the egregious actions committed by Iran's so-called morality police, which led to the death of Mahsa Amini while in their custody.
Targeted sanctions have been imposed against senior Iranian officials and prominent entities that directly implement repressive measures, violate human rights and spread the Iranian regime's propaganda and misinformation.
The legislative amendments we are introducing to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act would provide Canada with much needed abilities to better align government-imposed sanctions with authorities related to immigration enforcement and access to Canada. The IRPA defines when a person is inadmissible to Canada and establishes the applicable criteria for all foreign nationals and permanent residents who seek to enter or remain in Canada.
However, IRPA, as it stands, is incongruous with our inadmissibility regime. Its inadmissibility provisions do not clearly align with the basis for imposing the majority of SEMA sanctions issued against Russia and Iran.
Issuing sanctions against these countries on the grounds of a grave breach of international peace and security, which has resulted in the serious situation that we see today, does not automatically trigger inadmissibility. This means that most individuals sanctioned pursuant to SEMA may nevertheless have access to travel to, enter or remain in Canada if they are not otherwise deemed inadmissible.
This runs counter to Canada's policy objectives with respect to the measured application of sanctions and restrictions on foreign nationals who are part of the Russian or Iranian regimes or who are key supporters of those regimes.
Legislative amendments are required on an urgent basis to align the IRPA sanctions inadmissibility regime clearly with that of SEMA.
That is why I am here today to introduce Bill S-8, an act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which would, among other things, expressly align the IRPA with SEMA to ensure that all foreign nationals subject to sanctions under SEMA would be inadmissible to Canada.
If passed, the current inadmissibility grounds relating to sanctions would be expanded to ensure that foreign nationals subject to sanctions, for any reason under SEMA, would be inadmissible to Canada. This would include foreign nationals sanctioned not only in Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and Iran but also sanctioned individuals from Myanmar, South Sudan, Syria, Venezuela, Zimbabwe and North Korea.
In addition, these amendments would also modernize the current sanction inadmissibility framework set out in IRPA.
Allow me to explain the importance of this legislation and why I am seeking to pass it into law.
The amendments of this bill would allow for all sanctions related to inadmissibility grounds to be treated in a cohesive and coherent manner; strengthen inadmissibility legislation that we already have in place rendering persons subject to sanctions inadmissible to Canada; ensure that the sanctions imposed by the Government of Canada would have direct consequences in terms of immigration and access to Canada; and allow Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada officials to deny temporary or permanent resident visas overseas and authorize Canada Border Services Agency officials to deny entry to and remove from Canada sanctioned individuals.
Once enforced, these amendments would apply to all foreign nationals who are subject to sanctions issued unilaterally by Canada and to their immediate family members. These changes would ensure that all Russian and Iranian officials sanctioned under SEMA, and their sanctioned supporters, are inadmissible to Canada.
Without the proposed amendments, those who are sanctioned in response to the situations in Ukraine and Iran are not necessarily inadmissible unless they have violated some other provision of IRPA. This proposed legislation would completely close that gap.
This approach also aligns with and builds on recent strong legislative activity.
For example, in the 2017 report by the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, entitled “A Coherent and Effective Approach to Canada's Sanctions Regimes: Sergei Magnitsky and Beyond”, the committee recommended that the IRPA be amended to designate all individuals sanctioned under SEMA as inadmissible to Canada.
Subsequently, also in 2017, the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act, also known as the Sergei Magnitsky law or Bill S-226, came into force. This act created two new inadmissibility grounds, which aligned with certain sanctions, provisions related to international human rights violations, and significant corruption. Subsequent amendments to the IRPR were also made, so that delegated CBSA officers, as opposed to the immigration division of the Immigration and Refugee Board, were empowered to issue removal orders directly at ports of entry for individuals inadmissible pursuant to the newly created sanctions inadmissibility provisions.
This ensured that these individuals would not have to be physically referred into Canada for admissibility hearings before the Immigration Division.
Finally, budget 2018 provided the CBSA with the necessary funding to work with Global Affairs Canada and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to ensure that inadmissible sanctions cases are identified as early as possible in the travel continuum to prevent them from gaining access to our country.
These investments and the effective work of border management and immigration officials in Canada and abroad support the proposed legislative amendments that I am seeking your support for today.
Furthermore, while funding from budget 2018 ensured the proposed amendments were completed in a timely manner, the timeline of this proposal was adjusted to realign with border management and public safety priorities related to the necessary COVID-19 pandemic response. Nevertheless, proactive development of the amendments in Bill S-8 has enabled a timely legislative response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and Iran's violent crackdown against civilian protesters.
Further to the work already done, there are additional complementary and coordinating amendments introduced in this bill, which are required to align inadmissibility provisions with the sanctions provisions while maintaining the integrity of both frameworks.
First, all the sanctions inadmissibility provisions will be treated in a cohesive and coherent manner. This includes, for instance, adding a temporal element to all the sanctions inadmissibility provisions, which means that a person is inadmissible only for as long as they remain on a sanctions list. In addition, as is the case today with IRPA, immediate family members of foreign nationals inadmissible for sanctions are also inadmissible. Similarly, existing provisions of IRPA with respect to immigration, detention and sanctioned individuals would apply to the new sanctioned grounds.
Second, further legislative amendments in this bill would ensure that the inadmissibility framework related to multilateral sanctions, such as sanctions issued in concert with the United Nations, would be expanded to include groups or non-state entities, as opposed to only when states are sanctioned, as is the case today. Currently, sanctions issued against groups and non-state entities, such as al Qaeda or ISIL, do not automatically trigger sanctions-related inadmissibility ground. The proposed amendments would further facilitate interdiction and enforcement for sanctions issued multilaterally.
Make no mistake, the proposed amendments would improve Canada's ability to identify and stop sanctioned foreign nationals before they can get to Canada. In the event that some do nevertheless arrive at our borders, delegated CBSA officers would have the authority to issue removal orders immediately at ports of entry for all those inadmissible for sanctions.
It is important to note that sanctions inadmissibility is the most efficient and effective mechanism to swiftly identify inadmissible persons as early as possible in the travel continuum and to deny their ability to acquire a visa to Canada.
While other inadmissibility provisions may be applicable to some sanctioned individuals, it should not be assumed that all sanctioned individuals are also inadmissible for other grounds. Moreover, other potentially relevant inadmissibility grounds, such as those relating to engaging in war crimes, require extensive investigation, case-by-case analysis, and hearings before the Immigration and Refugee Board before they can be applied and yield consequences. It is not expected to be the case that all individuals who are sanctioned can in fact also be found inadmissible for some other ground under IRPA.
Unless there is a clear and specific ground for inadmissibility in IRPA against given individuals, immigration and border officers do not have the discretion to deny access to Canada. These amendments are therefore vital to ensuring consistent alignment between inadmissibility and sanctions.
Bill S-8 will also support other inadmissibility and immigration enforcement measures being pursued with respect to Iran. Additional measures against the Iranian regime were announced on October 7. The Prime Minister announced that the Government of Canada would be seeking to designate the Iranian regime under IRPA. This means that in addition to the individual sanctions, the top 50% of the most senior echelons and the members of the Iranian regime most responsible for egregious serial human rights violations will be considered inadmissible to Canada once the regime has been designated, and indeed that has been done.
Other refinements are included in the proposed amendments in Bill S-8. For instance, we will correct an inconsistency with respect to refugee policy that was created through Bill S-226. The Sergei Magnitsky law rendered inadmissible foreign nationals ineligible to make a refugee claim. However, multilateral sanctions such as those issued under the United Nations Act do not have the same consequence in IRPA.
Similarly, the Refugee Convention itself does not identify sanctions in and of themselves as sufficient to warrant exclusion from refugee protection.
The proposed amendments in this bill would correct that asymmetry and ensure that foreign nationals are not ineligible to have a refugee claim referred to the refugee protection division of the Immigration and Refugee Board on account of being inadmissible solely due to sanctions in line with Canada's international obligations.
Given the measures in place to deny sanctioned individuals access to our borders, in the rare case in which an individual can apply for refugee protection in Canada, all foreign nationals inadmissible due to sanctions who are granted refugee or protected person status would not be eligible to become permanent residents while those sanctions are in place. This is a balanced yet firm approach.
In addition, should a person inadmissible due to sanctions be subject to removal proceedings, they would be eligible to apply for a preremoval risk assessment, ensuring a fair assessment of risks facing them upon removal from Canada.
In recognition of sanctions being a deliberate statement of government policy, further amendments are proposed to narrow the available pathways to overcome inadmissibility for sanctions within IRPA.
I believe that lifting of the sanction in and of itself is the mechanism by which the consequences of a sanction should be avoided. As such, the bill proposes to remove access to ministerial relief for individuals who are inadmissible for sanctions. Furthermore, individuals inadmissible for sanctions would not have access to an appeal of the inadmissibility decision before the immigration appeal division, nor may they make an application for permanent residence on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, under our proposed amendments. Any request for recourse related to sanctions ought to be made to the sanctions-issuing body.
For example, individuals inadmissible due to sanctions imposed by Canada could submit an application for delisting to the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
In addition, as with all decisions under IRPA, the federal court will continue to have jurisdiction to conduct judicial review of inadmissibility determinations on the basis of sanctions.
The bill also includes coordinating amendments to the Emergencies Act and the Citizenship Act to maintain and clarify existing authorities related to sanctions inadmissibility in those pieces of legislation.
Now more than ever, we must move to align the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act sanctions regime with the regime under the Special Economic Measures Act.
The senators have agreed to adopt the motion and, to quote Senator Omidvar, have marked this bill as “super urgent”. I urge members to review Bill S-8 with the same sense of urgency. The bill will provide Canada with much-needed authorities to better link government sanctions, as well as the authorities necessary for our immigration officials to deny access to Canada. It will also better enable us to contribute to concerted action with our international partners.
The bill we are introducing in the House today is a prudent and comprehensive approach that would allow our government to respond to the Russian and Iranian regimes' aggression with appropriate immigration consequences.
This legislation and these amendments would provide a clear and strong message that the Government of Canada's comprehensive sanctions framework has meaningful and direct consequences, not only from an economic perspective, but from an immigration and access to Canada perspective as well. Doing so would allow us to stand up for human rights both here and abroad.