At a news conference to announce the tabling of Bill C-43: Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act
National Press Theatre
June 20, 2012
Check against delivery
Thanks for being here today.
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.
In doing so, the Harper Government has two broad, but complementary, goals.
First, we aim to foster an immigration system that can fill significant 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.
Secondly, as we move forward with these changes, we are implementing policies that safeguard the integrity and security of our immigration system.
I believe that the security and integrity of the immigration system go hand in hand with that system’s ability to best serve our society and our economy.
In that spirit, we just introduced a new Bill in the House of Commons: the Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act.
By introducing this Bill today, we are fulfilling a longstanding commitment to take action on a problem afflicting our immigration system.
Measures in this Bill would close some of the loopholes that allow individuals found inadmissible to Canada to remain in this country long after their welcome has worn out.
The Harper Government is committed to the safety and security of Canadians. This Bill is a strong expression of that commitment. Indeed, the changes proposed in this legislation will increase our ability to protect Canadians from criminal and security threats.
At the same time, we are also strengthening our immigration program and facilitating entry for some low-risk visitors. These tough but fair measures will ensure that foreign criminals won’t be allowed to endlessly abuse our generosity.
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.
Let me relate just a few – out of dozens – of these examples.
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 went on to be 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… the list goes on.
He served time for each of these convictions, and 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’s 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.
I think you can already see a pattern here…. in December 2005, de Florimonte was convicted of 5 counts of trafficking in crack cocaine. For this crime, he received his first sentence of longer than six months.
Shortly after serving his 13-month sentence, he was convicted once again of assault with a weapon and for uttering threats.
De Florimonte was reported for criminal inadmissibility in October 2006, but he was able to delay his removal when he filed an appeal with the Immigration Appeal Division. His appeal was declared abandoned after he failed to show up for his hearing, but he was then able to re-open his appeal.
The Immigration Appeal Division ultimately dismissed his appeal, but he was able to further delay his removal once again when he asked the Federal Court to review this decision.
The Court denied his request in March 2011, and in October 2011 – when he failed to report for his removal – a warrant was issued for his arrest. That’s five years after he was initially reported for criminal inadmissibility.
Under our laws, if a foreign national is sentenced to six months or greater they are subject to removal. But under the current system, they still have access to the Immigration Appeal Division as long as their sentence is less than two years.
Here’s another illustrative example of the problem with the current system.
The details of Singh Khosa’s crime were widely reported and I’m sure you’ve heard about his case.
In 2002, he was convicted of criminal negligence causing death after Mr. Khosa lost control of his vehicle and killed a pedestrian while street-racing in Vancouver.
He was given a conditional sentence of two years less a day. Khosa was ordered deported from Canada in April 2003, but he was not deported until April 2009.
Once again – it was the multiple levels of immigration appeals, and subsequent hearings before the Federal Court and the Federal Court of Appeal – that enabled him to delay his deportation for seven years.
The Immigration Appeal Division dismissed Khosa’s appeal and the Federal Court upheld that decision.
However, the Federal Court of Appeal then overturned the Federal Court’s decision and ordered the Immigration Appeal Division to provide him with a new hearing.
It was at this point that the Government said ‘enough is enough’ and appealed this decision to the Supreme Court. To our relief, the Supreme Court allowed the appeal and restored the Immigration Appeal Division’s original decision.
This whole process of appeal after appeal took seven years. In some cases, it has taken us more than 20 years to actually remove dangerous convicted foreign criminals who are in Canada and taking advantage of our system.
Another example is the case of Clinton Gayle, 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. This process was made more difficult because of his relatively short criminal sentence. And in 1996, while that process was still ongoing, Mr. Gayle shot and killed a Toronto police officer.
Another particularly notable example is that of Joselito Rabaya Arganda, who came to Canada from the Philippines in 1995.
Arganda was sentenced to two years prison in 2007 for a wide variety of crimes, among them forgery, credit card fraud, possession of counterfeit money and possession of goods obtained by crime.
When he got out of prison, he fell right back into a life of crime.
He was sentenced anew in 2009 for possession of property obtained by crime and for failing to comply with court orders. The following year, he was sentenced for possession of a weapon.
On May 10, 2010, the Immigration and Refugee Board issued a removal order. Under the existing rules, Arganda had no right to appeal, because he had previously been sentenced to two years.
But he managed to find a unique way to get around this: He got the Manitoba Court of Appeal to grant him permission to appeal the previous two-year criminal sentence he received – a sentence he had already served.
To relay what happened next, let me quote from a Winnipeg Sun column of August 13, 2011. These are the words of Sun columnist Tom Brodbeck:
“If he could get (his sentence) reduced to two-years-less-a-day retroactively, he would have the right to appeal his deportation. But what court would do that? … That’s exactly what … the Manitoba Court of Appeal did… They reduced the guy’s sentence by one day so he could appeal his deportation, even though he had already finished serving his sentence. Madness.”
That appeal is still pending, and he remains in Canada.
Yet another example: Gheorghe Capra, a Romanian national who arrived in Canada in 1991 as a stowaway. He was found to be a convention refugee and obtained permanent resident status.
Over the years, Capra has been charged and convicted of numerous counts of fraud. He was found inadmissible in 2003 and ordered deported, but since his longest sentence had been two years less a day, he was able to appeal the removal order.
He was convicted of fraud once again in 2008 and – almost five and a half years after he was ordered deported – he was finally deported to Romania the following year.
The postscript to this story is that in 2010, he was found to have returned to Canada under an assumed name, and was removed from Canada once again last year. Last summer, CBSA received information to the effect that Capra was possibly back in Canada once again.
Take, as one final example among many possible examples, the case of an individual named Jackie Tran, born in Vietnam. He became a permanent resident in January of 1993, when he was ten years old.
By his late teens, he had become known to law enforcement officials in Calgary, and was first convicted at the age of 19 for cocaine trafficking.
We attempted to deport him for six years.
Yet, 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.
He was first ordered deported in April of 2004 and was not removed from Canada until March of 2010.
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.
Measures in the Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act will remove a right of appeal, which may expedite the removal of all those with a sentence of six months or more.
Also, those who have committed serious crimes outside Canada will also be barred from accessing the Immigration Appeal Division.
Let me now highlight some of the other changes resulting from the admissibility review, incorporated in the measures introduced today.
These measures include a number of provisions for strengthening the safety and security of Canadians:
- Our Government will streamline the process for deporting foreign criminals by limiting access to the Immigration Appeal Division of the Immigration and Refugee Board. This change would reduce the amount of time certain criminals may remain in Canada by up to 14 months. I just gave you some examples of situations that would have unfolded differently under these new measures.
- In addition, foreign nationals who are inadmissible on the most serious grounds, such as organized crime or war crimes, would no longer have access to a program that is meant for cases deserving of humanitarian and compassionate consideration.
- The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration– be it me or a future minister – would have a new authority, in exceptional cases, to deny temporary resident status to foreign nationals who raise public policy concerns. We’d expect this authority to be exercised in exceptional circumstances. For instance, this authority could potentially capture individuals on whom Canada or the United Nations is considering sanctions.
- Individuals with immediate family members who are inadmissible on grounds of security, human or international rights violations or organized criminality would now also be barred from visiting Canada, even if they are travelling alone. That being said, we would facilitate the visits of those individuals with immediate family members who are inadmissible on less serious grounds, such as health.
- To deter immigration fraud, there would be increased consequences for those applicants who misrepresent themselves or otherwise provide false information. Currently, the consequence for misrepresentation is a two-year bar on admissibility. This would be increased to five years. In other words, anyone who gives false information in an immigration application will not be allowed to enter Canada for five years.
- To further strengthen the integrity of the immigration program, one amendment of this Bill would allow officials to compel those making applications to attend CSIS interviews.
It’s also important to note that the measures introduced today complement the measures in Bill C-31, the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act, which we anticipate that Parliament will soon pass.
They also complement the recent Action Plan on Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness announced by Prime Minister Harper and President Obama.
With these measures, our Government is taking positive steps to enhance its enforcement measures in cases related to non-citizens who are found to be inadmissible to Canada.
Canada continues to uphold its international obligations and advocate for the rule of law.
At the same time, we remain committed to preserving the security of our borders and immigration system, and to protect the safety of Canadians.
Thanks very much. I would be happy to answer any questions you may have about these measures.
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