Crime-Fighting Immigration Legislation Becomes Law

The Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act received Royal Assent on June 19, 2013, making it law in Canada (Steven W. Dengler)

The Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act has officially become law, making it easier to deport foreign criminals from Canada.

Canadian Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney welcomed the grant of Royal Assent to the legislation:

“This new law will keep Canadians safer by ending endless appeals and loopholes that were being used by dangerous foreign criminals to delay their deportation, during which time many committed more crimes.

Canadians can now feel more confident in the integrity of our immigration system because violent criminals and fraudsters will be kept out while genuine visitors are welcome.”

The legislation amends the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to:

  • Make deportation of foreign criminals from Canada easier;
  • Increase barriers to dangerous individuals entering Canada; and
  • Reduce hurdles for non-dangerous visitors to Canada.

The legislation has received the support of several organizations, including the Canadian Association of Police Chiefs, the Canadian Police Association, and Victims of Violence and Immigrants for Canada.

Among the changes made by the legislation are limiting the access to the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB)’s Immigration Appeal Division (IAD) from foreign criminals, which CIC says will reduce the time criminals are able to stay in Canada by up to 18 months.

The Act also prevents foreign nationals who are deemed inadmissible on the grounds of being a threat to national security, being responsible for human trafficking or international rights violations, or being party to organized criminality, from appealing to remain in Canada under humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

Another change made by the legislation is the grant of new “negative discretionary powers” to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to refuse temporary entry even in cases when an individual has not been deemed a foreign criminal or inadmissible on the grounds of being a security threat or having involvement in human trafficking, international rights violations or organized criminality.

This power is the most controversial, as it enables a political party to refuse entry for political purposes. Many have charged the Harper government with doing this in 2010 when it initially refused to allow anti-war British MP George Galloway to enter Canada, based on accusations that his anti-war statements amounted to support for terrorism.

Kenney has tried to reassure critics that the new Ministerial power won’t be used in this way:

“We’re not looking at some broad, generalized power to prevent the admission of people to Canada whose political opinions we disagree with but rather those whose hateful attitudes, if given expression in Canada, could potentially lead to hateful actions or violence.”

Whether in years to come, the political inclinations of Canada’s ruling political party, whichever that may be, could bias their determination of what is a dangerous “hateful attitude”, remains to be seen.

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Eight More Countries Considered “Safe” By Canada’s Refugee System

A refugee camp in Africa. The Canadian government resettles over 10 percent of the refugees settled annually worldwide (Citizenship and Immigration Canada)

As part of an effort to reduce the number of bogus asylum claims made in Canada, the federal government has added eight countries to its list of designated countries of origin, which are those it considers as having strong protection of human rights, and from which genuine refugees are unlikely to originate.

Asylum claimants from the now 35 designated countries of origin will still be able to file a claim with the Refugee Board of Canada (IRB), but they will receive a hearing within an expedited 30-45 day period, instead of the 60 days that individuals from non-designated countries will wait.

Individuals from designated countries of origin will also not have the recently created, quasi-judicial, Refugee Appeals Division (RAD) available to them, although they will still be able to appeal their decision in federal court.

The removal of access to the RAD from those originating from safe countries is intended to alleviate a major problem of those whose claims are rejected delaying their removal from the country through appeals, allowing them to stay in Canada for years, and collect thousands of dollars in social assistance, until they have finally exhausted the appeals process.

The eight countries categorized as designated countries of origin are:

  • Mexico
  • Israel (excluding Gaza and the West Bank)
  • Japan
  • Norway
  • Iceland
  • New Zealand
  • Australia
  • Switzerland

The introduction of expedited processing of asylum claims from designated countries puts Canada in the company of a number of other countries who withhold full access to their refugee system from claimants originating from countries deemed ‘safe’, including the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, Belgium and Finland.

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Canadian Government to Implement New Refugee Rules on December 15th

A refugee camp in Chad. New refugee rules will allow for a more comprehensive appeals process for asylum claimants from countries with a history of rights abuses while using an expedited process for claimants from safer countries like EU member states (Mark Knobil)

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) announced on Friday that new rules to clamp down on abuse of Canada’s refugee program will come into force on December 15th.

The new rules are a reaction to an increase in bogus asylum claims that have seen tens of thousands of individuals from comparatively safe countries apply for refugee status in Canada and typically abandon their refugee claim before their hearing with the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB), but not before collecting thousands of dollars worth of welfare and free health care while in Canada.

Under the revised asylum claims processing rules, cases will be heard within 60 days, instead of the 600 days it currently takes on average. A Refugee Appeal Division (RAD) will also be created to allow asylum claimants from countries with a history of persecution to appeal negative decisions by the IRB.

To deal with bogus asylum claimants delaying their deportation through a long process of appeals, a separate processing stream will be created for claimants from ‘designated countries of origin’ (DCOs), which are those countries with comparatively strong legal protections of human rights, and these claimants will have fewer and more expedited options to appeal negative decisions by the IRB.

The creation of a ‘safe list’ of countries for expedited processing mirrors the protocol that the governments of most Western countries have in place to reduce the cost of processing bogus refugee claims.

Commenting on the changes, Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said, “last year alone, nearly a quarter of all asylum claims in Canada were made by people from democratic European Union nations – that’s more claims than Canada received from Africa or Asia. We’re spending far too much time and taxpayers’ money on bogus claims, and on generous tax-funded health and social benefits for claimants from liberal democracies.”

“Sixty-two percent of all asylum claims – and virtually all asylum claims for the European Union – were either abandoned or withdrawn by the claimants themselves or rejected by the IRB last year,” Kenney added.

“It became abundantly clear that our system needed to be changed. These changes will move our asylum system from one that allows bogus claimants to rely on loopholes and redundant appeals to delay their removals for several years, to a system that hears claims quickly and removes bogus claimants faster. That is in the best interest of Canada, and of legitimate refugees. Canada’s asylum system is one of the most generous in the world and will continue to be under the new and improved system.”

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Canadian Immigration Department Enacts New Marriage Sponsorship Rules

Under rules announced today, sponsored spouses will receive conditional permanent residence upon arriving in Canada and be required to live with their spouse or partner for two years to receive full permanent residence

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) introduced new spousal immigration sponsorship regulations today to reduce the incidence of marriage fraud. The new rules require sponsored spouses who have no children with their sponsor to be in a live-in relationship with their spouse for two years to get full permanent residence status.

Under rules in place until today’s announcement, a sponsored spouse received permanent residence on the day they arrived in Canada, and subsequently could leave their spouse and retain their residency status in Canada.

Calls to reform immigration sponsorship rules have increased as several high-profile cases, like those of Lainie Towell and Heinz Munz, have brought the issue of foreign spouses leaving their Canadian husbands and wives soon after arriving in Canada to the public’s attention.

The new rules will not apply to sponsored spouses who have a child with their sponsor on the date of their spousal sponsorship application submission. The regulation also includes an exemption for sponsored spouses or partners who suffer abuse or neglect from their Canadian partner or someone related to their partner.

Those not exempt from the regulation must be in a relationship with their sponsoring spouse or partner for two years from the date that they receive their permanent residency or have their status in Canada revoked.

“I have consulted widely with Canadians, and especially with victims of marriage fraud, who have told me clearly that we must take action to stop this abuse of our immigration system,” said Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney in announcing the new rules.

“Sometimes the sponsor in Canada is being duped and sometimes it’s a commercial transaction. Implementing a two-year conditional permanent residence period will help deter marriage fraud, prevent the callous victimization of innocent Canadians and help us put an end to these scams.”

Until today’s announcement, Canada was one of the few countries that did not have an initial conditional permanent residence period for foreign nationals sponsored for immigration by a spouse, and consequently, CIC says was considered a “soft target” by criminal organizations seeking to exploit Canadian immigration rules.

Several large-scale marriage scams have been uncovered in recent years, including the case of over 600 people involved in trading marriage sponsorships for money between 2007 and 2009.

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Iranian Immigrants Being Singled Out For Extra Scrutiny by Canadian Government

Iran's largest car manufacturer, Iran-Khodro, is one of the hundreds of companies sanctioned under Canada's Special Economic Measures Act (SEPA). An employment history with the firm can potentially cause difficulties for Iranians seeking to immigrate to Canada.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said this week that Iranians applying for immigration to Canada are being “rigorously” screened by the Canadian government for links to the Iranian political leadership.

Kenney cited the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA), saying it bars any one linked to “the Iranian Revolutionary Guard … the Basij or senior members of the regime” from immigrating to Canada.

This week the Harper government placed Iran and Syria on its list of state sponsors of terrorism, and section 34 of the IRPA which Kenney referred to deems members of organizations believed to be engaged in terrorism to be inadmissible to Canada.

A number of Iranian-Canadian human rights and dissident group activists have for years urged the Canadian government to prevent individuals linked to the Iranian regime from immigrating to Canada. They say that senior members of the Iranian government have managed immigrate to Canada and worry that they will be able to extend the reach of the Iranian government into Canada and intimidate Iranian-Canadians who oppose the regime.

Prominent Iranian-born human-rights activist and former Miss Canada Nazanin Afshin-Jam, who is married to Canadian Defence Minister Peter MacKay, said in July that the Iranian embassy in Ottawa should be shut down, saying it “has no purpose here” and is used to spread “propaganda”.

The Harper government has heeded their calls and put in place two rounds of sanctions against Iran, in July 2010 and November 2011, as well as shutting down the Iranian embassy in Canada and the Canadian embassy in Tehran and putting Iran on its list of state sponsors of terrorism this week.

The punitive actions have affected many with no links to the regime however. The closure of the Iranian embassy in Ottawa this week left thousands of Iranian students without consular services in Canada and no where to turn to receive them.

Likewise, Canadian economic sanctions, ostensibly put in place to prevent the Iranian government from funding its nuclear program, resulted in a major Canadian financial institution, TD Bank, shutting down the bank accounts of over 100 Iranian-Canadians.

It has also led to a few cases of Iranians with no relationship to the Iranian government having their application for immigration to Canada rejected in the last phase of the selection process. The reason given was that they had an employment history that included positions at companies sanctioned due to their links to the Iranian government.

For Iran’s professional class, avoiding employment at firms with links to the Iranian government is nearly impossible in some cases, as Iran’s government and Revolutionary Guard have major stakes in almost every large commercial entity in the country, so the effect of these sanctions is to prevent many of Iran’s best and brightest, who have no political links, and are seeking a better life in a new country, from being able to immigrate to Canada.

Would-be Iranian immigrants have also been facing extra difficulties in the immigration process due to the effects of financial sanctions imposed last year, which require any one wanting to send their money from Iran to Canada to first acquire a special permit from the federal government that can take any where from four to eight weeks to issue.

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Company Gets Fined $12,000 for Hiring Illegal Immigrants

The "Three Amigos" worked at a Shell gas station in Thompson, the largest city in northern Manitoba (Bobak Ha'Eri)

In a case more reminiscent of American immigration woes, a Manitoba company has been fined $12,000 for hiring three Filipinos in Canada illegally.

The workers, Antonio Laroya, Arnisito Gaviola and Ermie Zotomayor, began working for a Shell gas station owned by 5896941 Manitoba Limited in northern Manitoba after they were laid off from their jobs in Alberta.

The company owner, Adnan Chaudhary, attended the civil motion.

The three Filipino workers, nicknamed the “Three Amigos” in their Thompson, Manitoba community, were ordered deported from Canada in May 2011 and barred from returning for one year.

They are now attempting to get work permits to resume working in Canada.

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Conservative Government Introduces ‘Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act’

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney last week introduced legislation to speed up the deportation of foreign criminals from Canada. Under current laws, some refugee claimants who have been convicted of crimes have been able to delay their deportation for years through repeated appeals of removal orders, while receiving welfare and other government benefits during their time in Canada.

The new legislation, the ‘Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act’, would:

  • eliminate the right of convicted criminals who have been sentenced to more than six months in prison to file an appeal of a removal order to the Immigration Appeal Division
  • eliminate the right of foreign nationals who have been found by the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada to have committed serious security, human rights, and international rights violations, or had involvement with organized crime, to appeal for refugee status under “Humanitarian and Compassionate” provisions
  • make foreign nationals who have family members who have been found by the federal government to be inadmissible to visit Canada on grounds of security, human or international rights violations, or organized criminality, also inadmissible to visit Canada, even if travelling without that family member

In 2010, the Conservative government briefly barred George Galloway, an anti-war British MP, pictured above, from entering Canada (David Hunt from Warwickshire, UK)

The legislation would also give the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration the discretion to wave inadmissibility restrictions for an individual, and to deny temporary resident status to foreign nationals who have not been found inadmissible to visit Canada due to security, human or international rights violations, or organized criminality, based on public policy considerations.

In 2010, the Conservative government attempted to prevent George Galloway, an anti-war British MP, from entering Canada, based on accusations that he supported terrorism. The discretionary powers granted by the new legislation would codify the ability of the federal government to prevent particular foreign nationals who meet all legislated eligibility requirements for visiting Canada from entering the country.

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