Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration

This week, the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration continued its study of Bill C-43, receiving testimony from various legal organizations, lawyers, and immigration reform movements.

On November 5th, the committee heard testimony from immigration lawyers Barbara Jackman, Robin Seligman, and David Mantas, who argued that Bill C-43’s removal of appeal mechanisms for permanent residents, especially on the grounds of humanitarian compassion, eradicated the only venue in which these individuals had in shedding light on the context of their criminality, and the only forum they had in discussing the effects deportation could have on their well-being. Testimony was also heard from Lorne Waldman and Angus Grant of the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, who argued that other legislative innovations could have done a better job in removing foreign criminals from Canada than Bill C-43. A point of contention for both individuals was the issue of ministerial waivers, and the effects that CSIS policies of not recording deportation interviews could have on the ability of lawyers to mediate factual disputes between clients and officers. Additional testimony was also heard from Martin Collacott of the Centre for Immigration Policy Reform, who suggested that while Bill C-43 removes appeal mechanisms for permanent residents sentenced to 6 months or more in jail, the bill does not prevent these individuals from asking judges to take their citizenship status into consideration during sentencing.

On November 7th, the committee heard testimony from representatives of the Canadian Bar Association, who argued that Bill C-43 was a piece of legislation that had not gone through the public consultation process required  in designing laws sufficient in dealing with the problems of the immigration system. As a result, the bill – especially the provisions which grant ministerial waivers, removes appeal mechanisms, and changes the misrepresentation bar from two to five years – represents a patchwork of poorly designed policies that are unaccountable, unregulated and un-Canadian. Testimony was also heard from immigration lawyer Reynaldo Reis Visarra Jr. Pagtakhan, who argued that while Bill C-43’s denial of appeal for permanent residents is a provision that should be supported, its 5-year ban on misrepresentation, and its granting of ministerial waivers are provisions needing amendment or removal. Additional Testimony was also heard from Rivka Augenfeld and Richard Goldman of Table de concertation des organismes au service des personnes réfugiées et immigrantes, who suggested that Bill C-43 demonstrates a pattern of “exclusionary” activities by the government, who no longer cares about the activities of the immigrant prior to migration, but is now more concerned with who these individuals associate with. The organization believes that this change in priority has expanded the scope of criminality in Canada and has unfairly labelled individuals as inadmissible.