Accounting for Law

J.S. Vijaya: who is afraid of Bill C-43?

By J.S. Vijaya

I was re-reading The Turn of the Screw by Henry James a couple of nights ago. As many of you know, the genius contained in this novel lies within the sheer ambiguity of what is going on. It is a horror story without any depiction of masked boogeymen wielding chainsaws and relentlessly chasing victims. The real horror in this novel lies within everyday, seemingly benign reality where the strange and the sinister are embroidered.

I woke up yesterday and read that Bill C-34 (Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act) has finally received royal assent and has become the law of our land. It is important to note the significant changes that have been made to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

The so-called permanent residents in Canada should pay attention to the fact that if they get convicted of or plead guilty to any criminal act that brings them a sentence of six months or more, they have no right of appeal to the Immigration Appeal Division. You’re going “home” after your sentence, regardless of the fact that you may have lived here for 30 years or more.

You will not be allowed to fight the automatic deportation order. The previous rule where the threshold was a two-year sentence no longer applies. Criminal lawyers will need to be mindful of the fact that immigration consequences will now be very much a live issue and an important factor to be considered when it comes to discussing any resolutions or pre-trials with Crowns and judges. The recent case of R. v. Pham from the Supreme Court of Canada confirmed the stark reality of immigration consequences to all accused who are not Canadian citizens.

I am painfully aware that many Canadians will simply view Bill C-43 as a tool to send “foreign criminals” back home. I am afraid that the reality is much more complex.

Bill C-43, in my view, is a further attempt to promote division among our ranks by our present government. Allow me to speak what I believe to be the unpleasant underlying truth: The old school “us and them” Bill C-43 mantra, xenophobic in its stark nature, is designed to address the cynical and mostly manufactured public fear of the foreign, dark-skinned, alleged criminals and terrorists.

In my view, we must reject these obvious crude attempts by the current government to make things look normal and benign as they viciously turn the screw.

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