J.S. Vijaya Headshot

Bill C-43 Treats Immigrants Like Criminals

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We are a nation of immigrants. Those of us who are aware of Canadian history regarding immigration and related policies know about shameful tragic episodes, such as the Komagata Maru incident. We have all heard the famous phrase from philosopher George Santayana, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." In my view the right wing ideologies and mode of thought that made the Komagata Maru incident possible are revisiting us in these supposedly enlightened, modern times under the Harper regime.

Bill C-43, The Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act: An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act thus far has passed First Reading. This draconian legislation proposes to remove all rights to an immigration appeal to non-Canadian citizens who have been convicted of a criminal charge and have been sentenced to six or more months in jail. In short, these individuals upon conviction will receive their deportation order immediately and will be shipped back to their homelands after serving their sentence without any right to appeal whatsoever. In theory, the objective of the government for bringing in this legislation is to reduce the time spent in Canada by these convicted individuals.

The whole legal concept of due process that attempts to balance the awesome power of the State against a sole individual is thrown out the window under Bill C-43. I am aware that there will be those who will argue that why should we encourage these "foreigners" to engage in automatic rights of appeal; why should we the taxpayers finance the lifestyles of those lawyers who take on these useless appeals to waste court time and related resources? My brief answer is that if you allow these travesties to continue soon enough YOUR legal rights of appeal in other matters will be sacrificed to the altar of expediency and "speedy justice."

The differentiation between a Canadian citizen and non-citizen will no longer be made. The mere allegation of wrongdoing by the state will be enough to land you in jail. Is this the kind of nation we want to live in? Is this the Canada we envision for ourselves? I have not forgotten, nor will I forget, the recent example of Stalin-inspired, unfettered state power exercised during the G20 summit, where secret government meetings were held, secret and illegal legislation was passed and civilians were rounded up like cattle and beaten. All this was allowed to happen in Canada for our protection! In my opinion, we must not continue to trade our freedom for the false sense of security promised by Big Brother.

I am aware that despite the ominous and dangerous legal implications of Bill C-43, this odious legislation will likely pass because Mr. Harper and his Conservatives hold the majority in Parliament. I can guarantee you that the following scenarios will unfold soon thereafter. As a criminal defence lawyer working in the multicultural city of Toronto, I will have to quickly ascertain the citizenship of my clients in the first interview and quickly advise them of the potential dire consequences if they are either refugees or non-citizens.

The refugees will quickly remind me that they were granted refugee status for the right reasons and would never go back to the nations where they were persecuted and tortured for political reasons or their sexual orientation. I suspect that even if the proof of their guilt is overwhelming by objective evidence, these individuals affected by Bill C-43 will most likely instruct me to set a trial date in the already overburdened criminal justice system.

If some of these individuals who have been in Canada for over 25 years, married with children, having contributed to our economy, paying their share of taxes, happen to be charged with possessing six or seven small marijuana plants, I must tell them the sad news about Bill C-43. I will likely meet someone in the Crown's office who will state that although they are sympathetic to my client's predicament, their hands are completely tied.

I will likely advise the Crown that at trial everything will be an issue and the state will have to rigorously prove every single element of the allegation beyond a reasonable doubt. The crown and the defence will engage in a lengthy litigation process where every case will be treated with the same degree of seriousness as those who are accused of engaging in an armed bank robbery or a very nasty sexual assault.

The Harper government refuses to acknowledge the Statistics Canada report stating that the rate of crime has been on a steady decline and is at the same level now as it was in 1972. We must remember this objective statistical reality and act rationally in response to the ostensible threat of crime as envisioned by the right wing "law and order" agenda driven politicians. The foreigners and the refugees are easy soft targets to attack.

This vulgar political tactic has been adopted by many politicians throughout history to placate the masses and maintain power. To mindlessly put all foreigners and refugees in the same proverbial criminal basket does Canada a disservice to the reputation we have acquired as thoughtful people who live in a free and democratic society.

We should stand on guard against those who wish to corrupt these democratic ideals and the related basic rule of law concepts that should apply to all human beings. The bell tolls for thee...We must not be coerced and cajoled into embracing the "us and them" propaganda and turn against each other.