Getting rid of the “foreign criminals”

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney tabled new legistlation yesterday, June 20, to make it easier for Canada to deport non-nationals who have been convicted of a crime—or, as Kenney’s press release says, “expedite the removal of foreign criminals.” The legislation is called the Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act. (There are several measures in the legislation, but expeditious removal is the most obviously problematic, and the one I’ll address here.)

Currently, any non-national (refugee, landed immigrant, or permanent resident) who receives a jail sentence of 6 months or more is automatically slated for deportation. However, if the sentence is 2 years less a day (the cut-off, we are led to conclude, between a major offense and a less-major one), then they can file an appeal to the Immigration and Refugee Board on humanitarian or compassionate grounds.

The idea is that, for example, if they have been raising a young family here in Canada, it might be in the children’s best interest not to have their family split up. Or if they are a refugee and could face harsh persecution in their home country, it might be in everyone’s best interest to keep them here.

Not anymore. With this new legislation, Kenney is removing this right to an appeal. No more humanitarian or compassionate consideration (and thus, dare I say, no more humanity or compassion).

Kenney claims that these “foreign criminals” are abusing Canada’s appeals process, creating huge backlogs. Refugee and immigration lawyers have been quick to point out that the appeals process is backlogged because it is drastically underfunded. The correlation, not surprisingly, is lost on the government. Kenney also accused judges of giving non-nationals sentences of 2 years less a day on purpose so that they could still file an appeal, which, if it’s true, seems to me a commendable tactic.

From the press release: “The Harper Government is putting a stop to foreign criminals relying on endless appeals in order to delay their removal from Canada during which time they continue to terrorize [terrorize!] innocent Canadians.”

I would also like to point out Kenney’s insistence in using the term “foreign criminals.” I can see why he uses it—a “foreign criminal” sounds much more frightening than a “foreign national who has committed a crime.” His press release also contrasts these “criminals and fraudsters” with “genuine visitors,” as if committing a crime forfeits one’s genuine-ness.

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