The Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act (Bill C-43)
In June 2012, the federal government introduced Bill C-43, the Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act, in the House of Commons. The Bill proposed several changes to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act relating to the investigation and removal of foreign nationals and immigrants. To read CARL's position on these proposed reforms, see:
In their appearance before the Citizenship and Immigration Committee of the House of Commons today, two expert witnesses for the Canadian Association for Refugee Lawyers (CARL) Lorne Waldman and Angus Grant offered clear, trenchant criticisms of Bill C-43, The Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act. Their testimony focused on a two significant failings of Bill C-43:
- Permanent residents of Canada, upon being convicted of relatively minor crimes, can now be deported without any right of appeal or consideration of their personal circumstances.
- Innocent people, found to be inadmissible to Canada because of ludicrously broad security laws, will no longer be able to remain in Canada for exceptional or humanitarian reasons.
Mr. Waldman, the president of CARL, stressed that Bill C-43 applies to permanent residents of Canada as well as foreigners:
“Everyone supports the notion of speedily removing foreign criminals. But does everyone support the notion of deporting a father who is supporting his family, a mother who is the sole caregiver for her Canadian children, a child who is caring for ailing parents? Many permanent residents have deep roots in Canada.”
Waldman also explained that Bill C-43 lowers the definition of a serious crime to an inappropriately low level, namely, any crime that is punishable by ten years or more and where a sentence of six months has been imposed:
“Someone who has lived in Canada most of their life, now convicted of stealing oysters, could be deported without any right to appeal their deportation to the Immigration and Refugee Board.”
Mr. Grant, a prominent refugee lawyer also undertaking doctoral studies on admissibility issues, noted that Bill C-43, despite its stated objectives, will not increase Canadian security:
“This bill will not make Canada safer from terrorists but it will seriously harm innocent people who should not be trapped within the current security net.”
Grant explained that Canada’s inadmissibility laws are already too broad. Under what has become known as the “Mandela rule”, completely innocent people who have peacefully stood up for human rights against despotic regimes, have been incorrectly and unfairly labeled as members of terrorist groups:
“It is at least arguable that these changes could be justified if innocent individuals caught in the system could access humanitarian relief. Bill C-43 eliminates this possibility. The result is that those who are innocently captured under Canada’s security provisions have no recourse. They may be barred from making a refugee claim, they may live in limbo for years, if not decades, they are frequently forced onto welfare and they are stripped of their dignity”.
Mr. Grant also stressed that the bill did not make Canadians any safer.
“The law already allows the Minster the authority to deny criminals and terrorists access to Canada. Under the current system, those who do pose a threat to national security are not granted Ministerial relief, nor are they granted relief on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. The only thing these provisions accomplish will be to deny to innocent individuals processes meant to exonerate them from the overbreadth of our security laws.”
Laura Griffin, University of Ottawa CARL Chapter
The Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act, Bill C-43, was introduced in the House of Commons in June 2012. If passed, this Bill would result in several changes to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act relating to the investigation and removal of foreign nationals and immigrants. If passed as currently drafted, the Act will:
- Expand the definition of who can be denied entry into Canada by expanding the definition of risk to national security and giving the Minister of Immigration power to issue a declaration that a person is inadmissible on public policy grounds;
- Reduce the review of government decisions to exclude persons from permanent residence by removing the right of appeal for persons sentenced to six months in prison, or for having committed or been convicted of a crime abroad that carries a maximum 10 year sentence or more in Canada;
- Reduce the circumstances where government officials may to take into account humanitarian and compassionate considerations by precluding certain people from applying, limiting the scope of considerations when applying for Minister’s relief, and removing appeals;
- Remove the discretion of immigration officers, board members and judges in determining conditions of release for immigrant detainees by imposing mandatory release conditions;
- Increase penalties for misrepresentation; and
- Allow CSIS to compel people to attend interviews and answer their questions if they are in the process of an immigration application.
These changes increase the discretion of the Ministers of Immigration and Public Safety throughout the inadmissibility process while subsequently removing safeguards and the ability of immigration officers, Members of the Immigration and Refugee Board, or Judges to make individualized assessments based on all the facts. The result is that persons will be excluded and removed from Canada where there are compelling reasons for them to stay. Innocent people, found to be inadmissible to Canada because of unduly broad security laws, will no longer be able to remain in Canada for exceptional or humanitarian reasons. Persons who have lived in Canada all of their lives, whose families, friends, workplaces, and places of worship are in Canada, will be removed on the basis of a conviction alone and will have no right to appeal.
Further, because the new legislation fails to define exactly what “public policy reasons” in relation to the Minister’s ability to issue an inadmissibility declaration, it is not clear where this authority would apply in the absence of the seven other grounds available to find persons inadmissible being available.
Finally, expanding the authority of CSIS officers must be understood within the context of intelligence officers not having this type of authority in any other context, and the existing legal requirements for foreign nationals and permanent residents to answer questions truthfully and to provide evidence when asked by officials.
Bill C-43 has already passed through the House of Commons and is currently being reviewed in the Senate. The Bill’s progression through parliament can be tracked here.
In November 2012, CARL Members made submissions to the Citizenship and Immigration Committee of the House of Commons focusing on the broad security laws and the removal of appeals. The testimony can be read here.