The opposition NDP says a bill before the House of Commons today would give too much power to the immigration minister.

Bill C-43, the Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act, would ease the way to deport refugees, permanent residents and visitors for "serious criminality," crimes where the punishment is six months or more in jail. MPs are debating the bill at second reading Monday.

It also gives the immigration minister powers to determine who can be kept out of — or allowed in — the country.

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said Monday the bill reduces the number of appeals "abused by serious foreign criminals to delay, sometimes for several years, their deportation."

"This is an important initiative to protect Canadians from serious, repeat foreign criminals who have been delaying their deportation from Canada and in too many cases going on to create new offences and create new victims in Canada," Kenney said outside the House of Commons Monday.

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U.S. Immigration and Customs agents escort Jorge Sosa, a former Guatemalan army commando, at Los Angeles airport following his extradition from Canada. Sosa is accused of taking part in the massacre of more than 200 people during that country's civil war. (REUTERS/U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Handout)

But there's far more to the bill, including a measure that would allow the immigration minister to decide who can enter the country. One measure would give the minister the power to deny someone entry or temporary resident status for up to three years on the basis of public policy considerations.

Kenney said last June that the power would be used sparingly.

NDP immigration critic Jinny Sims told reporters Monday there are other problems with the immigration system that should be addressed, including skilled workers who can't find jobs for which they're qualified, and a slow process to reunite families after one member immigrates to Canada.

Sims says the New Democrats are going to examine the bill closely to understand why Kenney is proposing these changes.

"When you first take a look at the first blush of examining this bill, we do have some serious concerns about the amount of power that is placed in the hands of this minister," she said.

"Now for up to 36 months, this minister can declare somebody inadmissible. For me it's politicizing our immigration system more and more."

"This is not against Jason Kenney the individual. No immigration minister should have this much power," Sims said.

Bill's measures include CSIS interviews

Other proposed changes under the act include:

  • A rule that would deny an appeal to those with foreign convictions for crimes that would carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in Canada.
  • A rule that would deny entry to Canada to those with a family member inadmissible for security and human rights reasons or organized crime connections, even if that family member isn't travelling with them.
  • A five-year inadmissibility period for lying on immigration applications.
  • Mandatory CSIS interviews if requested.
  • Reporting conditions for those under deportation orders.
  • Automatic inadmissibility for non-Canadians and permanent residents for acts of espionage or acts against Canada's interests.