The Current

Court cuts bank robber's sentence to avoid deportation to Syria

Canada's so-called Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act says non-citizens sentenced to more than 6 months in jail must be deported. But what should happen if deportation of someone convicted of a crime here in Canada would land them in the midst of a vicious war back home?
Three years ago, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney introduced the "Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act" but the reality has been... "not so fast." (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)
It's time to send a clear message to foreign criminals: If you commit a serious crime in Canada, we are going to send you packing as quickly as we can.- Jason Kenny announcing the 'Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act' 

Three years ago, the then-Immigration Minister Jason Kenney introduced what the government called the "Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act." But the reality has been.... "not so fast."

Take the case of Amjad Nassri. Two years ago, the 21-year-old, who is a permanent resident of Canada, from Syria was convicted for his role in a bank robbery... and given a nine-month prison sentence.

But since the new Foreign Criminals Act had just been passed into law, that sentence was tantamount to a deportation order. Under the new rules, a sentence of six months or more limits a permanent resident's immigration appeal rights. 

The old threshold was a sentence of two years. But Syria is, of course, home to a humanitarian crisis and civil war. And, with that in mind, this month the Ontario Court of Appeal reduced his sentence, to six months-less-15-days. 

Meaning Amjad Nassri can once again appeal a deportation order. But meaning, to some, that the courts have undermined the express will of Parliament. To others, allowing Amjad Nassri's deportation to Syria would have been the real injustice. 

  • Barbara Jackman is an immigration lawyer in Toronto.
  • Julie Taub is an immigration lawyer and a former member of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada. She was in Vancouver.

We asked the federal government for a comment about this case, and we got a response from Immigration Minister Chris Alexander's office, that says,

If someone commits a serious crime, our government feels he or she should face the full consequences of that decision, including possibly deportation. We will review this decision very carefully and act in the best interests of law abiding Canadians.

This segment was produced by The Current's Sujata Berry and Gord Westmacott.