Canada's minister of citizenship and immigration says he was "disturbed to learn a foreigner can get a pardon for serious criminal cases and then be allowed to stay."
Jason Kenney, talking to reporters outside the House of Commons Friday, was referring to Raed Jaser, 35, who has been accused of plotting to derail a Via Rail passenger train in what authorities have called an "al-Qaeda supported" attack.
Jaser was charged this week with terrorism-related offences, along with Chiheb Esseghaier, 30.
Kenney wants to know why Jaser was given permanent residency in Canada, despite the fact that he had a criminal record, and why he was pardoned for at least some of his crimes.
Jaser arrived with his parents and two siblings at Pearson International Airport on March 28, 1993. They travelled from Germany using fake French documents. When the parents made a claim for refugee protection, Jaser was 10 years old and a dependent minor.
The family was denied refugee status, but appealed. They eventually became Canadian citizens, but not Jaser who, during his time in Canada, was convicted of fraud-related crimes five times and uttering death threats. His criminal record meant he was ineligible for citizenship.
In 2004, the government issued a deportation order for Jaser. Five days later he was apprehended and detained. A lawyer for the immigration minister argued that Jaser should be held in detention, but Jaser's lawyer successfully argued that Jaser could not be deported because, as a Palestinian, he was stateless. Even though Jaser was born in the United Arab Emirates, the UAE does not recognize him as a citizen.
It is unknown what year Jaser was issued a pardon and granted permanent residency status in Canada.
"I don't care if you get a pardon or not. If you commit a serious crime in Canada, you should be kicked out, period." Kenney said Friday. "Why should a pardon override a criminal inadmissibility?"
Kenney also wants to see if a stateless person can be deported by Canada, and whether policies should be reviewed.
He explained that Jaser's pardon and permanent residency happened because of "old policies." He pointed out that his government recently passed its Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act that will make it easier to remove foreigners who have faced six months or more in jail for a crime committed in Canada, by barring them from appealing a removal order.
Kenney also said he supports a private member's bill tabled by Conservative MP Devinder Shory that would strip citizenship from anyone who commits an act of treason or terror against Canada if they also are citizens of another country. The proposed bill would prevent anyone with permanent residency who commits the same acts from applying for citizenship.