Hon. Nicole Eaton moved second reading of Bill C-43, An Act to amend the Honourable senators, Canadians have a long tradition of being welcoming and generous. In fact, since 2006, our Conservative government has maintained the highest sustained levels of immigration in Canada's history and one of the highest per capita rates of immigration in the developed world.
In order to maintain that tradition, Canadians need to have confidence in the way we undertake and manage immigration. Over the past few months, our government has put forward a number of initiatives aimed at bringing transformational change to this country's immigration system.
Honourable senators, for too long Canadians have seen countless stories of people who view Canada as a doormat, a light touch, a nation whose immigration system is an easy target for fraudsters and criminals.
Understandably, Canadians have had enough. They have made it clear they want us to restore the integrity of our immigration system, and our Conservative government is doing just that.
We are creating an immigration system that can fill significant current and future labour shortages across the country and help us meet our economic needs more quickly and efficiently — a system designed to give newcomers the best possible chance to succeed.
You see, honourable senators, the security and integrity of the immigration system go hand-in-hand with its ability to best serve our society and our economy. That is why our government introduced Bill C-43, the faster removal of foreign criminals bill.
Bill C-43 fulfils a long-standing commitment to take action on a problem afflicting our immigration system. Honourable senators, Bill C-43 does three things: It makes it easier for the government to deport dangerous foreign criminals from our country; it makes it harder for those who may pose a risk to Canada to enter the country in the first place; and it removes barriers for genuine visitors who want to come to Canada.
Our Conservative government is committed to the safety and security of Canadians. This bill is a strong expression of that commitment.
Under our current laws, if a foreign national is sentenced to six months or greater, they are subject to removal; yet, under the current system, they have access to the Immigration Appeal Division as long as their sentence is less than two years.
Through Bill C-43, our government will streamline the process for deporting foreign criminals by limiting access to the Immigration Appeal Division of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada.
This change would reduce the amount of time certain criminals could remain in Canada by up to 14 months. We will ensure that foreign criminals will not be allowed to endlessly abuse our generosity.
Unfortunately, there are many examples of convicted criminals doing just that — murderers, drug traffickers, fraudsters, child abusers and thieves, some of whom were on most-wanted lists. In fact, on average, each year 850 foreign criminals appeal their deportation. Currently there are more than 2,700 foreign criminals awaiting a decision on whether they can delay their deportation.
The problem is clear: Not only have these dangerous foreign criminals already committed crimes and victimized Canadians, but also many use the time they are allowed to remain in Canada while they appeal their deportation to commit more crimes and victimize even greater numbers of Canadians.
Let me relate just a few examples — out of many — that illustrate the extent of the problem and its impact upon Canadians.
Geo Wei Wu, born in China, came to Canada as a student and gained permanent residency as a spouse in 1990. Over the next two decades, he was convicted of a series of crimes including attempted theft, dangerous operation of a motor vehicle, criminal harassment, assault causing bodily harm, break and enter, fraud — and, sadly, the list goes on.
He served time for each of these convictions. By 2008, he was found inadmissible and a removal order was issued. Under the current rules, he was entitled to appeal this order.
The appeal process took almost two and a half years and ultimately failed: Wu's appeal was dismissed.
Wu then disappeared after failing to show up for his pre- removal interview. The CBSA posted his information on its "Wanted" website last summer. Just a few weeks ago, media reported that he is now wanted by Peel Regional Police in connection with the kidnapping last year of two men in Mississauga. He is still at large.
Here is another example. Patrick Octaves De Florimonte arrived as a permanent resident from Guyana in 1994. Within two years of his arrival, he was convicted of a serious crime: assault with a weapon. Less than a year later, he was convicted of two more crimes: theft and possession of a narcotic. Six months later, he was convicted once again of assault. Just six more months passed and he already faced yet another conviction: uttering threats.
Then there is the case of Jackie Tran, born in Vietnam. He became a permanent resident in January of 1993, when he was 10 years old. By his late teens, he had become known to law enforcement officials in Calgary, and he was first convicted at the age of 19 for cocaine trafficking.
Despite having a long criminal record as a gangster and a major drug trafficker, he had never received a sentence of more than two years less a day. Thanks to repeated appeals, he was able to continuously delay his deportation for six years. He was first ordered deported in April of 2004 but was not removed from Canada until March of 2010.
Take as one final example, perhaps the most sadly illustrative case, Clinton Gayle from Jamaica, who received a sentence of two years less a day when he was convicted of multiple drug offences.
Between 1990 and 1996, the government tried to deport Mr. Gayle on multiple occasions, but because many of his convictions earned him sentences of less than two years, he was able to appeal his deportation and delay his removal from Canada.
Tragically, on the night of June 16, 1994, Toronto Police Service constables Todd Baylis and Mike Leone were on foot patrol. They encountered Gayle, a veteran drug trafficker, who had with him a fully loaded nine millimetre handgun and pockets filled with bags of crack cocaine.
Clinton Gayle struck Constable Baylis and then attempted to flee the scene. He was caught by the two young Toronto officers and a gunfight erupted. Tragically, Constable Baylis, a young man in his mid-20s, was shot in the head and killed in the line of duty, after only four years' service, leaving behind family, friends and colleagues.
Honourable senators, under the current system, too many of these foreign criminals have been able to appeal deportation orders and extend their time in Canada following convictions.
Serious criminals sentenced to imprisonment for any time less than two years have been able to delay or permanently set aside their removal orders. While they remain in Canada, on our streets and in our communities, many commit more crimes and further victimize innocent Canadians.
Measures in the faster removal of foreign criminals bill will remove a right of appeal, which will expedite their deportation.
While we agree that even foreign criminals deserve their day in court, we do not believe they deserve endless years in court, delaying their removal. We agree with due process, not endless process due to technicality.
Simply said, we are closing the avenues of delay that have been long and winding roads of process that have protected foreign criminals and allowed further harm to both new and existing Canadian citizens.
In addition, foreign nationals who are inadmissible on the most serious grounds — such as involvement in organized crime or perpetration of war crimes — would no longer have access to a program that is meant for cases deserving of humanitarian and compassionate consideration.
It is shocking that war criminals, terrorists and gangsters involved in organized crimes could delay their deportation by applying to remain in Canada under these grounds.
It is doubly ironic considering that humanitarianism and compassion are precisely what these individuals failed to show their victims. I think we can all agree that this is a common-sense change that is long overdue.
In addition, honourable senators, in order to prevent those who pose a risk to Canada from entering the country in the first place, Bill C-43 provides the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration a new authority: an authority, in exceptional cases, to deny temporary resident status to foreign nationals who seek to do harm to Canadians.
Honourable senators, there is a good deal of support for this legislation.
In October 2011, the Quebec legislature passed a unanimous motion: "To demand that the federal government refuse entry to Canada of Abdur Raheem Green and of Hamza Tzortzis given their hate speech, which is homophobic and minimizes violence against women."
There has also been a lot of media interest in unapologetic hate mongers like Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptists. This group vehemently accosts gays, lesbians, women and our brave soldiers in uniform. They have made specifically clear their unapologetic hatred for Canada.
The comments and positions of those whose stock in trade is hatred illustrate the best rationale for these new provisions. I am sure everyone will agree that such individuals should not be allowed into Canada.
For years, immigration ministers have been asked to keep people who promote hatred and violence out of Canada. I think most Canadians assume that the immigration minister has this ability. The truth is the minister certainly does not. Unfortunately, under the current system if they meet the criteria to enter Canada, there is no mechanism to deny them entry.
Bill C-43 will change that. It will ensure that those who pose a risk to Canadians, who spew hate and incite violence will be barred from entering our country. This new authority would allow the government to make it clear to those foreign nationals that they are not welcome here, that they should not travel to Canada and they that will be refused temporary resident status.
We have been transparent about the guidelines that would be used by the minister, so transparent in fact that the minister tabled the guidelines at committee in the other place. They are posted on the departmental website for all Canadians, and indeed all who seek refuge and citizenship here, to review. Those who would be barred under the new provisions include anyone who promotes terrorism, violence or criminal activity. As well, foreign nationals from sanctioned countries or corrupt foreign officials would also be barred from entering.
I think all honourable senators in this chamber can agree that these provisions represent common sense. I find it hard to believe anyone could disagree with them. What is more, in making these legislative changes, Canada is playing catch-up. We indeed lag behind other countries that already have similar powers in place. In fact, most countries have powers that are much more discretionary than those in Bill C-43. For example, in the United Kingdom, the Home Office has barred the entry of individuals whose presence is considered "not conducive to the public good."
In Australia, the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship has various powers to act personally in the national interest. It is up to the minister to determine whether a decision is warranted. In addition, Australia's immigration laws allow for visa refusals based on foreign policy interests and the likelihood that an individual will promote or participate in violence in the community.
In the United States, the Secretary of State may direct a consular officer to refuse a visa, if necessary, for U.S. foreign policy or security interests. The Secretary of Homeland Security can delegate the authority to immigration officials to revoke a visa. Additionally, the President may restrict the international travel and suspend the entry of certain individuals whose presence would be considered detrimental to the U.S.
Here in Canada, gay and lesbian groups as well as women's groups, amongst others, have pressed ministers in the past to use such a power. It is unfortunate that those in opposition to this legislation are ignoring the pleas of these groups. Until this legislation becomes law, we will continue to be unable to stop these undesirable foreigners from spewing their hurtful, misogynistic, minority-hating, bigoted venom on our soil.
Bill C-43 would enable the minister to bar such extremists from entering Canada in the future. The advantage of this new discretionary authority for refusal is that it is flexible, allowing a case-by-case analysis and quick responses to unpredictable and fast-changing events. It allows the minister to make a carefully weighted decision, taking into account the public environment and potential consequences. Ultimately, the Minister of Immigration would be accountable to Parliament and to Canadians for decisions made in this regard.
However, let me make it perfectly clear that this power is intended to be used very sparingly. We anticipate it would only be used in a handful of exceptional cases each year where there are no other legal grounds to keep despicable people out of the country.
Honourable senators, I would like to point out that this bill would also facilitate the entry of legitimate low-risk visitors to Canada. Under the current system, when a family travels to Canada and one of the members is inadmissible for non-serious grounds such as health, the entire family is found inadmissible. One can imagine that this can cost families a considerable amount of both time and money. Bill C-43 would improve the system by allowing all other family members who are admissible to enter Canada if one of the family members is found inadmissible on non-serious grounds.
Honourable senators, our Conservative government introduced the faster removal of foreign criminals bill because we know that Canadian families care about safety and security. Canadians support this bill. Stakeholders and experts support this bill. I quote from the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, which asserted:
The CACP supports the efforts of the Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act to provide for a more expeditious removal from Canada of foreigners who are convicted of committing serious crimes against Canadians. As well, we support measures to prevent those with a history of committing criminal offenses, or who pose a risk to our society, from entering Canada. The Act will help to make Canadians and those who legitimately enter Canada safer.
I continue to quote from the Canadian Police Association, which:
... welcomes the introduction of the Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act, particularly with respect to the enhanced prohibitions against those who have committed serious crimes abroad from coming to Canada.
While the overwhelming majority of those who come to Canada make a tremendous contribution to our shared communities, there does remain a small minority who flout Canadian law and have taken advantage of drawn-out proceedings to remain in the country at a risk to public safety. This legislation will help us by streamlining the procedures necessary to remove individuals who remain at-risk to re-offend.
Ensuring that public safety is one of the considerations with respect to admissibility to Canada is a clear step in the right direction.
This act has also been praised by victim associations like Victims of Violence, which said:
Cutting short foreign criminals' opportunity for lengthy appeals will go a long way in minimizing and preventing the re-victimization of those innocent Canadians who are the victims of foreign offenders.
Honourable senators, this legislation is also supported by several immigration lawyers and experts. It has also received a good deal of editorial endorsement in the press. The provisions contained in Bill C-43 are clearly reflective of an idea whose time has come.
Honourable senators, our Conservative government is putting a full stop to dangerous foreign criminals relying on endless appeals in order, while they remain free, to further victimize innocent Canadians.
Through this legislation's provisions, our government is fulfilling a commitment to take a stand against a problem that is the core of our immigration system; a problem that sadly sees the welfare of dangerous foreign criminals given more due consideration than their victims.
I close, honourable senators, with the words of Theodore Roosevelt:
No man is above the law and no man is below it; nor do we ask any man's permission when we require him to obey it.
Though those words were from another time and place, they are apt. Their sensibility and wisdom for our age are echoed in the provisions of Bill C-43. I look forward, honourable senators, to our debate.