By Helen Surgenor
In the face of contention over Bill C-43, the Harper Government has suggested guidelines for invoking the ministerial power to refuse would-be immigrants and refugees entrance to the country.
The proposed bill, called the Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act, would allow the minister of citizenship and immigration to bar non-citizens entry to Canada on the grounds of public policy.
The bill was tabled on June 20 and went through a second reading in September.
“This authority would apply to the handful of exceptional cases each year where there are no other legal grounds to keep (criminals) out of the country to protect the safety and security of Canadians,” Citizenship and Immigration minister Jason Kenney said in a statement on Wednesday.
The proposed guidelines indicate that this provision should be directed at individuals promoting terrorism, violence, or criminal activity, corrupt government officials, and citizens of countries sanctioned by the Canadian government.
“The good thing about guidelines, from the perspective of someone who wants to challenge them, is that they are guidelines,” international lawyer Jasteena Dhillon, told Humber News.
“The immigration officer is not compelled to impose them.”
While the act may be a good way to make the immigration system more efficient, Dhillon said removing the veil of due process puts a lot of discretion in the hands of an immigration system seeking to harmonize its views on national security with the US.
“It’s balancing thing,” she said, “the question is, should we put the discretion to balance those decisions in the hands of a bureaucrat,” she said, adding that the concern is that individuals should have the chance “to make their case in front of an independent, objective adjudicative body.”
According to the proposed guidelines, the minister could refuse those who “promote, counsel, encourage or incite serious criminal activity.”
The proposed law is unlikely to keep mob-related criminals out of the country, organized crime expert Antonio Nicaso, told Humber News.
“I think that this is an important step, but it’s not what we really need,” said Nicaso.
“Being a member in a criminal organization is not a crime in Canada, our legislation punishes only the participation in criminal activities.”
While the authority to refuse an application for immigration is supposed to be made on a thoughtful case-by-case basis, Dhillon said she’s concerned that individuals will have to rely on civil liberty groups to speak on their behalf should they be denied entry.
“Being a non-citizen at that point, it would be very difficult to make a charter challenge,” she said.