The Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act
I am always interested in the impact of my writings. My purpose, as always, is to inform the reader and provide them with an update and analysis of changes in immigration. In a recent article I focused on Minister Jason Kenny’s own assessment of his job performance. It was his decision to write about his accomplishments and his decision to praise his own performance. My role is to question whether or not his actions are helpful or harmful, especially to potential immigrants. My rating of his job performance was not high. For this I make no apology. The Minister and I obviously do not agree on some of the actions his department has taken to date, specifically the elimination of much of the federal skilled worker backlog and the return of applications of people who have waited years. Also there is the suspension of parents and grandparents sponsorship. He wants to be praised for eliminating backlogs and I worry about the rights of applicants, sponsors and Canada’s reputation for fairness.
There are, however, areas of immigration where Minister Kenny and I share the same concern and opinion. He has recently announced that his department will take action to revoke the citizenship of persons who lied about their residency requirements. It is wrong for those persons to lie on their Citizenship applications and correct for the departmental officials to take action against those who falsely claim to have met the residency requirement. That being said, I find it interesting to note that the minister waited until the number had grown to over 3,000 before announcing publicly that actions would follow. It certainly was dramatic and caused a wave of panic in the local community.
Why let the number grow to 3,000? There are some things all readers can learn from this example. Firstly, that I have a journalistic responsibility to report on immigration matters in an objective fashion and secondly that Minister Kenny cannot seem to resist the temptation to over dramatize the situation and portray immigrants in a bad way.
The issue of the day is Bill 43 the Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act proposed by the Conservative government. “We have introduced a law that will stop foreign criminals relying on endless appeals in order to delay their removal from Canada during which time they continue to terrorize innocent Canadians,” Minister Kenney explained in his news release. “We believe all parliamentarians should support this law…Canadians are generous and welcoming people, but they have no tolerance for criminals and fraudsters abusing our generosity.” The Act has now passed first reading and contains things we should all be aware of.
The news release from Minister Kenny’s office identifies three major areas of concern in the Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act:
- Make it easier for the Government to remove dangerous foreign criminals from the country;
- Make it harder for those who may pose a risk to Canada to enter the country in the first place; and
- Remove barriers for genuine visitors who want to come to Canada.
On the surface it is hard to take issue with any of these three points. However, it is necessary to look into the details of the proposed legislation to understand the actual implications. The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Jason Kenney, will be given discretionary authority to determine who can be kept out of or allowed into the country for up to three years on the basis of what he believes to be public policy considerations.
Opposition members in the House of Commons complained that the legislation proposes simple solutions to complex problems and may be open to ministerial abuse. The minister will be given broader discretionary powers to rule a foreign national inadmissible for up to 36 months, if he believes that it is in the public interest. First what is the limit of “belief” as opposed to a demonstrated or proven fact? And secondly, what is in the best interests of the public? The bill also removes the minister’s responsibility to examine humanitarian or compassionate circumstances of the foreign national who is deemed inadmissible.
Another questionable aspect is the change in defining serious criminality to persons whose sentences in Canadian equivalency is six months or greater rather than the current two years or greater. There is even a provision for people who have lied in their immigration applications to be barred for five years. A common expression sums up my concerns – the Devil is in the details
The Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act appears on the surface to be a good idea and this is how many Canadians might perceive it. However, the detail is revealing in terms of the increase in the arbitrary use of power by the Minister of Immigration. Whatever happened to faster and fairer in terms of immigration admissions? It appears we are being transformed into slower and more arbitrary. On the one hand, the government is moving to revoke the Citizenship status of persons who lied on their applications while on the other hand they are admitting convicted criminals like Conrad Black whose sentence in the United States is equivalent to 14 years plus.
Minister Kenney should be praised for moving to protect Canada from serious foreign criminals but the proposed legislation and his department’s unequal application of the law (in the case of Black) belie his words. “Do as I say, not as I do,” is hardly a justification for anyone, especially a Minister of Immigration.
Michael Scott BA (Hon), MA, is a 30-year veteran of Canada Immigration and the Manitoba Provincial Nominee Program who works as an immigration associate with R.B. Global Immigration Consultants Ltd. He can be reached at 838 Ellice Avenue in Winnipeg, (204) 783-7326 or (204) 227-0292. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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