Immigration Minister Jason Kenney's use of the case of Mahmoud Mohammad Issa Mohammed to justify the draconian reforms to immigration and refugee law that he has implemented is ill founded. Mr. Kenney argues that the soon-to-be-passed "Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act" will prevent a repetition of Mr. Mohammad's case. But Mr. Mohammad's deportation was delayed due to a finding that he would be at risk of torture. That finding made in 2007 was allowed to stand until it was overturned in 2012. The delay in his deportation had nothing to do with loopholes but rather was a result of Canada's obligations under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to not remove a person to torture.
Moreover, the so-called Speedy Removal of Foreign Criminals has nothing to do with the removal of foreign criminals. Since when is a permanent resident of Canada a "foreign criminal?" Permanent residents of Canada should take note that this government believes that permanent residents who have been legally admitted to live here are still to be considered "foreigners."
This law has nothing to do with "foreign criminals." Rather, it strips appeal rights from permanent residents. Once passed, permanent residents will be subject to deportation without any equitable review if sentenced to six months or more. The law treats all permanent residents the same regardless of how long they have spent in Canada. Permanent residents who came as young children and have lived here all their lives will be deported.
In addition, the law gives the unprecedented power to the minister to declare foreign nationals inadmissible based on vaguely defined public policy grounds.
Reforms to the refugee procedure brought in by this government have created an unfair process that sacrifices fairness on the altar of efficiency. The timeframes will prevent many claimants from retaining counsel or obtaining corroborating documents to establish their claims. Genuine refugees will be denied protection because they will not have enough time to get the help and proof that they need.
New provisions provide for mandatory detention of refugee claimants for long periods of time if they arrive in large groups and are declared "irregular movements." Reform to the refugee health procedures will deprive many refugees and refugee claimants of access to any health care. The minister has acknowledged that the changes to the healthcare coverage of refugees are designed to discourage claimants from coming to Canada. This callous policy has already placed many refugees at risk.
Mr. Kenney's efforts at reform have undoubtedly made deportation easier. But this has come at the cost of compassion and fairness. As the true impact of Kenney's changes become apparent, Canadians will have to judge for themselves whether these reforms reflect the values of the Canada that we all love and are proud of.
Lorne Waldman is a Toronto-based immigration lawyer. He was involved in the defense of Mahmoud Mohammad Issa Mohammed at an earlier stage in his appeal process.