Federal Immigration Minister Jason Kenney is throwing cold water on Toronto Mayor Rob Ford's proposal to banish people who have been convicted of gun crimes from living in the city.
"Obviously we can't tell people which city we can and can't live in," Kenney said in an interview on radio station CFRB Newstalk 1010 on Friday.
The mayor has spoken publicly at least three times in the past two days of his intent to keep people who have been convicted of gun offences from living in Toronto. His comments come in the wake of what is being described as the worst instance of gun violence in Toronto, a Monday shooting at a street party that left two people dead and 23 others hurt by gunfire.
'I'm still a little confused, but I appreciate you calling.' — John Downs, CFRB host
Ford confirmed in a call to CFRB 1010 Thursday that he had called the prime minister "to find out if there’s any laws with respect to immigration and citizenship status in the city."
"I don’t care if you’re white, pink or purple," he said. "I don’t care what country you're from. I don't care if you’re a Canadian citizen or not. All I’m saying is if you’re caught with a gun and convicted of a gun crime, I want you out of this city."
Kenney said Friday, "I think I understand what the mayor is getting at."
But Canadian citizens have mobility rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and can move anywhere they want in the country if they have served the time for their crimes and have satisfied parole conditions, he said.
"Whether we like it or not, that's the situation," Kenney said. He did tout the merits of the government's push to deport non-citizens who are convicted of serious crimes carrying a sentence of six months or longer, with no right of appeal.
Ford meets with black leaders, leaves without comment
The mayor spoke with black community leaders at the Etobicoke Civic Centre on Friday who believe that youth programs are key, though Ford has called them "hug-a-thug" programs.
Ford left through the back door after the meeting without speaking to the media.
Margaret Parsons, with the African Canadian Legal Clinic, said the meeting was productive but that the mayor and the leaders did not see eye to eye.
"We differed as to whether or not a law-and-order approach is the right approach to take," she said. "We're certainly saying, yes, we do need to have safe and secure communities. But there are other ways to do that. Social development is an important aspect of it."
Parsons also asked Ford to tone down his rhetoric.
The mayor first spoke about the idea of banishing those convicted of gun crimes on Wednesday in an interview with Toronto television station CP24.
He subsequently told radio station AM640 on Wednesday evening that he was going to ask Prime Minister Stephen Harper to study immigration laws in order to achieve his goal of keeping such people out of the city. Critics said the mayor's comments were confusing, and it wasn't clear why he appeared to be zeroing in on immigration as an issue when it comes to gun crime.
Ford called CFRB Thursday evening to clarify his stance on the issue, saying his intention is not to target just immigrants. The call, which lasted for just under four minutes, can be heard at this link, starting at the 24:53 minute mark.
Ford didn't specify how he thought he would be able to move residents out of the city by persuading the federal government to change immigration laws.
"It has nothing to do particularly with immigration or where you come from … all I want to do is [get] information. Which I’m not an expert on and I’m sure nobody is right now until we talk to the minister, and I can only get that information from the Prime Minister’s Office," he said.
"So I put a call into the PMO to get that information. Maybe we don’t have a leg to stand on. But I’m going to do everything in my power to find out if we can get rid of these people when they get out of jail. "
Ford said he didn't have any inside knowledge on the citizenship of any suspected shooter in the Monday incident. But Ford said the shooting made him "mad," and he is acting to address the issue.
"A lot of people just said: 'Rob, why are they living in this city?' No matter who they are, I don’t care if you’re Canadian born, I don't care if you're a Canadian citizen. I don’t care if you’re an immigrant, I don’t care if you’re refugee. It doesn’t matter to me," he said.
"If you’re convicted of a gun crime, I don’t want you living in this city. And the only way I can find out whether that’s legal or not or whether we can enforce that is through the PMO, and that’s what I’m doing."
Host John Downs concluded the call by thanking Ford for phoning in.
"I'm still a little confused, but I appreciate you calling," he said.
Ford is scheduled to meet with Premier Dalton McGuinty on Monday to talk about getting additional funding to hire more police officers to become part of the Toronto anti-violence intervention strategy (TAVIS) unit. The unit is tasked with engaging with communities and addressing the root causes of violence.
Ford also hopes to meet with the prime minister next week.