1st Session, 41st Parliament,
Volume 148, Issue 154

Tuesday, April 23, 2013
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act

Bill to Amend—Second Reading—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Eaton, seconded by the Honourable Senator Comeau, for the second reading of Bill C-43, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, debate on Bill C-43 has been unduly politicized using fear. Fear justifies concentrating arbitrary power in the hands of the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. Fear justifies the one-size-fits-all approach, where offenders who commit non-violent crimes are treated in the same way as offenders who commit violent crimes. Fear justifies refusing entry to persecuted dissidents from fragile countries — refugees and advocates whose only so-called “serious crime” was to contradict power or confront oppression.

Bill C-43 makes drastic changes to the way in which the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act evaluates inadmissibility, responds to individuals found inadmissible on certain grounds, addresses individuals with an inadmissible family member and grants relief from inadmissibility. The bill also provides new regulatory authorities for immigration applications and creates a formal procedure for the renunciation of permanent resident status.

Bill C-43 gives the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration the power to prevent an individual from obtaining or renewing temporary resident status. Under these new provisions, there is no way to take into account the circumstances of an offender. For example, how would an arbitrary process that does not allow an appeal impact innocent children who may be affected by deportation? Moreover, the definition of “serious criminality” would be broadened to such a degree that any checks and protections to ensure the proportionality of a sentence and the consequences of that sentence are lost. Combined with the increased imposition of mandatory minimum sentences in Canada, this bill creates a factory-like approach to justice.

Honourable senators, we know that in the justice system cases are rarely black and white, open and shut or absent any peculiarity or particular context. Every case is based on the circumstances of that particular individual. A provision in the bill allows for the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to declare summarily that a certain individual may not become a temporary resident for up to three years because of “public policy considerations.” This change allows serious decisions to be made on the basis of oscillating public opinion or political preference — decisions on the basis of mob rule or the rule of one. Neither is justified in a democracy.

Honourable senators, we are united in our desire for a fair, efficient and just immigration system. However, we should not confuse efficiency with expediency, or public policy considerations with considerations of electoral politics. Most important, we should not confuse justice with dogmatism.

Honourable senators, I will say a brief word about “others.” Others are people we exclude and subordinate because they do not fit into our society. We construct roles for ourselves and for others — us versus them, like us and not like us, the same and different. We lean on these constructed roles to justify ignoring what is just, fair and morally right according to the principle that our mothers and fathers taught us when we were young: Treat others as one would like to be treated.

Honourable senators, please do not misunderstand me. Criminals, violent and non-violent, Canadian and non- Canadian, should be brought to justice; but justice is not expedient, political or dogmatic.

In his book, Orientalism, literary theoretician Edward Saïd quotes Nietzsche on the truth of knowledge, asking what is the truth of language, but:

… a mobile army of metaphors… in short, a sum of human relations, which has been enhanced, transposed and embellished poetically and rhetorically, and which after long use seem firm, canonical, and obligatory to a people: truths are illusions about which one has forgotten that this is what they are.

Like Foucault, Saïd argued that distinguishing the “other” is about power and domination to achieve a political aim. Today the question is: What is our political aim? Is it to divide and conquer or to welcome and protect? Is it to punish and seek revenge, or to preserve peace and promote understanding? In many areas, but especially in citizenship and immigration, our government finds itself in a position of power. Is it to banish or to imprison someone?

These are serious questions. The manner in which we respond to them not only defines individual lives; it defines our collective commitment to an ideal greater than any one individual. We all know Canada as a beacon of hope, a protector of the persecuted and the purveyor of justice.

Honourable senators, in our haste to expedite a very serious process, I hope that we do not lose sight of who we are and the values we hold. I respectfully ask that we very carefully study the provisions of the bill, as it changes our values as to who we are as Canadians.

(On motion of Senator Tardif, debate adjourned.)