Immigration minister to give criteria for denying entry to Canada
OTTAWA — Immigration Minister Jason Kenney plans to seek advice from all parties on how to “strike the right balance” between barring foreigners whose views could inspire violence and those who simply espouse unpopular political opinions.
Kenney promised to put forward a list of criteria aimed at clarifying a clause in Bill C-43, the government’s Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act, that gives the minister the new power of “negative discretion.”
It allows the minister to bar foreigners on the basis of “public policy considerations,” but the government has come under fire for failing to explain just what that means.
“The idea of this power of negative discretion in Bill C-43 would be to give us an extraordinary power in very exceptional cases to deny admission,” he said Tuesday following a speech on border security in London, England.
“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.”
Kenney promised to engage members of an all-party Commons committee on the issue when it begins reviewing the bill next week.
“I’m, quite frankly, going to ask all the members from all the parties at the immigration committee to give me their best advice on how to strike the right balance,” he said.
The NDP had one piece of early advice for Kenney Tuesday: Get it right the first time.
Immigration critic Jinny Sims argued Kenney has a “habit” of introducing legislation and other policy changes, only to alter them when he faces criticism. It happened after the government introduced its Protecting Canada’s Immigration Act and again after the Conservatives came under fire for cutting certain refugee health-care provisions.
“We’ve been pointing out that that part of C-43 was wide open,” she said. “To say that you’re going to keep people out for public policy reasons, that’s such a wide net and the fact that the power is invested in the minister is even more of a concern because it leaves it open for political manipulation.”
She’s prepared to take a look at the amendments he puts forward and is hopeful that the changes will include taking the discretion out of the hands of politicians.
It’s expected the new law could be used to justify barring people like controversial U.S. pastor Terry Jones who was stopped at the border last week under dubious circumstances.
Scheduled to speak at a conference in Canada, Jones was denied entry based on an old criminal conviction in Germany, though many believe it’s his promotion of International Burn a Qur’an Day that really raised eyebrows.
Kenney is set to wrap up a nearly two-week trip to Ireland, Hungary and the U.K.
While in England to talk about Canada’s efforts to beef up the border, Kenney said he was also invited to meet with members of the Conservative Party at 10 Downing Street. They apparently wanted to know more about his success boosting political support among newcomers and ethnic communities.
“Obviously the Conservative Party of Canada has a partnership and certain links with other parties of the centre right in democratic countries,” he said.
“I was happy to share our experience and our ideas on it.”
He suggested Conservative values like personal responsibility, reducing taxes and fighting crime resonate with newcomers and that polls suggest 42 per cent of non-Canadian born voters chose his party in the last election. “It was our honest approach, based on values and principles, that have succeeded to a certain degree,” he said.