Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act (Bill C-43)

Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, I agree with every single point just made by the immigration critic for the official opposition. However, I also believe that if I had been asked the question, which I imagine the Minister of Immigration may ask me, do I not believe that foreign criminals who have committed serious crimes in Canada should not be able to continue to stay here much longer after the deportation order, I would agree with him.
How can I agree with both of them? The essence of my amendments goes to the problem that we have with this legislation, which is that the legislation goes too far. It is overly broad, overly harsh and creates an unlimited discretion that we have not seen in previous immigration acts, allowing the minister, for instance, to deny permanent residency. Thus, someone who is not already in Canada could be denied the chance to come to Canada for a very vague and undefined purpose of public policy reasons.

While I was not a member of the committee, we reviewed the testimony that was given at committee, and the amendments I am putting forward today are drawn from the evidence given at that committee by the Canadian Bar Association, the Canadian Council for Refugees, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers.

I am particularly grateful to Professor Donald Galloway of the University of Victoria for his help in preparing these amendments. He is one of the founders of the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers and recently stood for election in Victoria as a Green Party candidate. I am indebted to him for his help.

What we have with this legislation is a public relations title, the faster removal of foreign criminals act. However, it goes beyond that. The bill would affect people who are not accused or convicted of criminality. It would affect people who are relatives of those who have been deemed inadmissible. For instance, an excellent example of where the bill fails to achieve the proper balance is on the subject of misrepresentation. Under Bill C-43, if someone is found guilty of misrepresentation on their application to come to Canada they are barred for five years. There is no distinction made between deliberate fraud or misrepresentation and the kinds of errors that occur through faulty language skills, such as inadvertent, unintentional misrepresentations.

In the brief time I have been a member of Parliament, I have been exposed to so many immigration cases on behalf of my constituents. I have seen fact sets that I simply would not have imagined occur, but they occur with great regularity. I have Canadian citizens whose child was born in the U.S. and who have come back together and have never got around to sorting out the child’s citizenship. These children, for all intents and purposes, are Canadian. However, under Bill C-43, if they run afoul of the law and are convicted of something with a six-month sentence they are going to be inadmissible for further application.

We could see families ripped apart through this legislation. The piece that is missing is the ability to take into account all of the circumstances. One size does not fit all. This legislation makes no distinction, for instance, between conditional sentences, which are given out in the community, usually for lesser offences, and sentences that apply to someone being jailed.

For me personally, and not speaking on behalf of all the organizations that submitted concerns to the committee, the most egregious part of the bill is proposed section 22.1 of the act, because it will give the minister of citizenship and immigration the right to deny temporary resident status for up to three years for what are described as “public policy considerations”. These are not defined. In other words, the public policy considerations are not tied to the public relations title of the bill, the faster removal of foreign criminals act. A public policy consideration could be unlimited, given that it is a matter of the minister’s discretion. If there is a public policy that we do not want foreign funded radicals opposing pipelines in Canada, I submit that that would be a class of person that a less reasonable Minister of Citizenship and Immigration than the current one would use in the future to bar people from coming to Canada on a whim.

This goes against the grain of everything this country is about, that we as a country have been enriched by accepting and bringing in a wide range of citizens and residents from all around the world. However, this bill would allow children, for instance, who have been here for their whole lives to be deported for relatively minor offences, without access to appeal. This is simply against what Canada and Canadian citizens want. If it were more properly balanced, I do not think anyone on this side of the House would have a problem with it.

The bill states that those falling under section 34, that is, people who are inadmissible on grounds of security, or on the grounds of human or international rights violations under section 35, or on the grounds of organized criminality under section 37, can no longer apply for compassionate, humanitarian consideration. This would be overly broad. As I mentioned, the hon. member for Newton—North Delta has put forward a number of the kinds of circumstances where we would not, in the normal course of things, imagine that Canada would sweep up people, deport them and deprive them of their opportunity for an appeal.

Those of us on this side of the House who want to see the bill amended want it amended so that it would actually focus the minister’s responsibilities and those of law enforcement on the removal of those people who are a legitimate threat to peace and security, people who actually fall under the category of criminality, who have been convicted of offences involving crimes of violence.

This legislation does not have any of those caveats that would allow law enforcement agencies, immigration and citizenship agents, and the minister to make a decision, with compassionate and humanitarian Canadian values at play, that we not uproot a person, a child or teenager, who has lived in this country virtually all their life. He or she may not yet have their citizenship. They are permanent residents or are temporary residents. The permanent residents category is very large in this country for people who have literally been here all their lives, except for perhaps the first six months or two years of life. This legislation does not take into account any of those circumstances in deciding if people can be deported, and they will not have access to ministerial discretion and further appeal.

I mentioned earlier that it would deem people inadmissible if they are related to someone else deemed inadmissible. Family members who want to come to Canada for a visit and who have committed no crime can, under Bill C-43, be told that they cannot come to Canada, even though the inadmissible family member is not travelling with them.

This does not seem to fit any public policy rationale. It appears to exclude people through association. Moreover, given that other family members may be residing in Canada, it would only serve to further punish a family that has already had a family member ruled inadmissible and been removed.

If a person released from detention is subject to inadmissibility on grounds of security, they could be released on condition. Essentially, inadmissibility on security grounds could speak to a whole range of reasons. These are not necessarily identified in this legislation, that is, in what way the person is a security danger.

The mandatory conditions do not really need to be added to the bill because we already have adequate measures under existing legislation to deal with most of the circumstances that would be of concern to Canadians.

In closing, I would ask the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism whether he is not willing, even at this late date, to consider that the bill may be overly broad. I will not say that the bill’s purposes are public relations, because I think there will be circumstances in which Canadians will be glad to see some of the provisions of the bill. However, surely, even at this late date, at report stage, we could take on board some amendments in line with the recommendation of so many expert witnesses to ensure that Bill C-43 speaks to Canadian values, speaks to the rule of law and our traditions that people have a right to be heard, that their side of the story gets to be heard. These traditions and rule of law go back to the earliest history of our western civilization. They go back to Magna Carta and we should not ignore them.

Extreme examples can be used by the minister. I will also put forward the example of a child who has been in this country virtually all of his or her life. To remove that child without access to humanitarian or compassionate grounds would go too far.

Surely some of these amendments could be accepted by the Privy Council side of the House.