No release on bail for deportees, Toews says

As a fourth 'most wanted' criminal is found, Canada's public safety minister wants to change the law so criminals set to be deported are no longer released on bail.

Fourth 'most wanted' criminal found, minister wants law changed

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, shown here at the Toronto launch of the Canada Border Services Agency's new list of fugitives 'most wanted' on August 18, is considering changes to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to prevent criminals set for deportation from being released on bail. (Aaron Vincent Elkaim/Canadian Press)

The release on bail of a violent fugitive who was included on a "most wanted" list has the federal public safety minister thinking about changing the law.

Walter Ernesto Guzman of El Salvador was ordered released last week on $3,000 cash bond after appearing before the Immigration and Refugee Board.

Guzman, who was in the country illegally after being convicted of drug trafficking, assault and other serious offences, surrendered to Montreal police Aug. 19.

Fourth 'most wanted' criminal found

On Wednesday, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews announced that a fourth criminal from the the Canada Border Services Agency's 'most wanted' list has been found.

Wasford Uriah Steer was apprehended in the Greater Toronto Area on Aug. 29. Steer was set to be deported after being convicted of possession of counterfeit money and a prohibited weapon, as well as assault causing bodily harm, assault with a weapon, resisting arrest, carrying a concealed weapon and fraud. He is now in the custody of the Toronto Police Service.

This will be Steer's third deportation from Canada. He was last deported in 2000, Toews said, and it's not known when he returned.

"Oh yes, this guy's quite creative," Toews said. 

The CBSA released its list of 32 individuals wanted for deportation for serious criminality on Aug. 18.

Vic Toews says the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act is geared too much toward releasing people who are to be deported, putting the onus on government to prove that those in custody are a danger to the public, a flight risk or both.

"Quite frankly, I think we need to examine that legislation to see whether that kind of a presumption is in fact appropriate in cases where individuals have been convicted of serious criminality in this country, who are under a removal order and who have evaded arrest in some cases for years," Toews said when asked about the Guzman case.

Toews has also mentioned looking at technology like facial recognition software to prevent offenders from entering the country.

Toews was also critical of the Immigration and Refugee Board, saying too many of the board's decisions are overturned by the courts.

"The federal court has overturned a number of the decisions of the IRB in this kind of a context," Toews noted.

"So whether it's just IRB adjudicators making decisions that aren't supported in law as the Federal Court has found or whether there needs to be changes to the legislation is something my staff is looking at now."

Guzman was among three suspects with lengthy criminal records who were arrested within 24 hours after the Canada Border Services Agency posted online mug shots of 32 dangerous foreign criminals.

The pictures were included in a new section of the "Wanted by the CBSA" page on the agency's website.

All are wanted on Canada-wide removal warrants, while many on the list could not be found after they finished serving time in custody.

Almost everyone on the list has multiple convictions, with assault-related offences the most common infraction. And they come from all over the world, including China, Europe, Latin America and Africa.

Canada deported more than 15,000 people last year, including 1,800 who were associated with criminal acts or involved in committing crimes.

Fourth criminal found

On Wednesday, Toews announced that a fourth criminal from the the CBSA 'most wanted' list had also been found.

Wasford Uriah Steer was apprehended in the Greater Toronto Area on Aug. 29, and is being held by Toronto police.

Like the others on the list, Steer had been convicted of serious crimes, including weapons offences, assault, and fraud. He was subject to a deportation order but had disappeared.

Steer has been ordered deported from Canada three times. He was last deported in 2000, the minister noted, and it's not known when or how he returned.

On Aug. 22, the CBSA announced two other individuals had been apprehended, in addition to Guzman: Xun Zhang in Richmond, B.C. and Reginald George King in Walford, Ont.

With files from CBC News