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Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has made a convincing case for a new law allowing the swift deportation of convicted criminals. The infamous example of Clinton Gayle underscores the need for such legislation.

A Jamaican citizen who was convicted in Canada of multiple criminal offences, Mr. Gayle was able to remain in the country long after a 1991 deportation order, because of the immigration appeals process. In 1996, he shot two Toronto police officers, killing one of them.

It is an extreme example. But it was hardly an isolated one. Take, for instance, the case of Walford Uriah Steer, who somehow managed to remain in Canada long enough to be convicted of more than 70 criminal acts by the time he was arrested again last year and charged with multiple prostitution offences involving a 16-year-old girl.

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The common thread in these cases, and other less notorious ones, is that the offenders racked up a string of convictions for which they were sentenced to less than two years in prison – the threshold at which those who are ordered deported lose their right to appeal to the Immigration and Refugee Board. So Mr. Kenney is proposing to lower that bar so that only those sentenced to less than six months could use the immigration appeals process.

That proposed change is contained in a fairly expansive piece of legislation, the Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act, which merits careful scrutiny before it becomes law. In particular, assurances should be sought that a new discretionary power for the immigration minister to deny temporary-resident status to newcomers on the basis of "public policy considerations" – which federal officials say would be limited to a very few cases – would not be used arbitrarily.

But while some immigration lawyers are predictably up in arms, it is difficult to argue with the bill's main thrust. The immigration process can be enormously complex, but one principle should be fairly straightforward: The tiny share of immigrants and refugees who lack citizenship and are convicted of serious crimes on Canadian soil forfeit their right to be here.

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