Proposed Bill promises to protect Canada from foreign convicts fuels controversy among lawyers

Citizenship and Immigration Minister, Jason Kenney, has been working around the clock to prevent criminals from tainting the Canadian immigration system.  Last year, the enactment of Bill C-35, An Act to Amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, provided immigration officials with the tools needed to crack down on criminal immigration representatives.  This year, the attention is focused on permanent residents and foreign nationals, convicted of crimes in or abroad Canada.

The proposed Bill C-43, the Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act, if legislated, would amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) to give the Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, the ultimate power to deny a foreign national entry into the country for up to three years, on the basis of “public policy considerations” (a term that has not yet been clearly defined).[1]  The Minister is keen on precluding foreign criminals from threatening the security of residents and the country, and from taking advantage of the Canadian legal system at the expense of Canadians.  During his trip to the UK, the Minister advocated the proposed legislation with the following statement:

“The idea of this power of negative discretion in Bill C-43 would be to give us an extraordinary power in very exceptional cases to deny admission essentially when we believe a foreign national may come to Canada (and) promote hatred which could lead to violence.”[2]

The Bill also proposes another amendment that could see permanent residents deported and denied the right to appeal to the Immigration Appeal Division of the Immigration Review Board, if convicted of a crime that results in a jail sentence of six months or more.  While the Bill will grant appeal provisions to those sentenced to less than six months in prison, this number is significantly less than the current threshold of two years under the present legislation.  The Minister believes that this initiative will, “[…] protect Canadians from serious, repeat foreign criminals who have been delaying their deportation from Canada and in too many cases going on to create new offences and create new victims in Canada.”[3]

Other amendments to the IRPA include: a five-year inadmissibility period for intentional misrepresentation; mandatory Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) interviews if requested; automatic inadmissibility for foreign nationals and Canadian permanent residents for deliberate acts of espionage.

On a positive note, the enactment would grant temporary entry to foreign nationals and their family members who would otherwise be deemed inadmissible for non-criminal reasons, such as health.

Despite the Bill’s good intentions, its ‘one-strike-and-you’re-out’ approach has received many criticisms since its introduction in June 2012, particularly from criminal and immigration lawyers.

According to immigration lawyer Mendel Green, the actions under the proposed legislation would constitute as “cruel and unusual treatment or punishment”—a violation to section 12 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom.

On the other hand, vice president of the Criminal Lawyers’ Association, Andras Schrek, fears that the amended definition of ‘serious criminality’ would bring with it an entirely new category of crimes that could result deportation, such as minor driving offences.

In response, the Minister assures us that he is well aware of the possibility of power abuse and that he intends to issue a list of criteria to be presented before the parliamentary committee, as well as seek input from members of his own party and the opposition:

“I don’t want — any more than they do — the current or future government abusing this kind of power to exclude from Canada those whose views may be contentious or politically incorrect”.

The Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act passed its First Reading on June 20, 2012 and was referred to the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration (CIMM) following its Second Reading on October 16, 2012.

Click here to read the comments made by supporters of the Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act.  Click here to read the comments made by MPs during the Bill’s Second Reading.

[1] CBC News. Deporting foreign criminals bill moves forward in House. Politics, At

[2] The Toronto Star. Kenney seeks new power to ban visitors from Canada. Politics, At–kenney-seeks-checks-on-ministerial-power-in-new-immigration-law

[3] CBC News. Deporting foreign criminals bill moves forward in House. Politics, At

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