It appears that Immigration Minister Jason Kenney wants to be our gatekeeper.
On Tuesday, Parliament passed second reading of Bill C-43 — the Faster Removal of Criminals Act — which would give the immigration minister the authority to deny a foreign national entry to Canada based on "public policy grounds."
In a telephone press conference from London, Kenney suggested that the case of anti-Muslim preacher Terry Jones and his attempt to come to Canada demonstrates the need for such legislation.
"[Current immigration laws are] basically focused on criminality and national security. But in some countries, it is not a crime to promote hatred or even violence against certain groups," he said according to the Globe and Mail.
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Kenney also noted another instance last year when Quebec's national assembly asked the Harper government to bar two imams who promoted hatred against women, gays, and Jews.
"We have no power to deny their entry because they did not have serious criminal records or involvement in terrorist organizations and they did not otherwise represent a security threat," he said.
The immigration minister has conceded to tabling specific criteria to Committee with regards to his definition of "public policy grounds."
NDP immigration critic Jinny Sims says that her party will look at the "criteria" but can't accept the fact that the minister will still be the ultimate arbitrator.
"When you have a key issue of like who can and cannot enter our country in the hands of a minister we have politicized our immigration system beyond what is acceptable," she told Yahoo! Canada News in a telephone interview.
"We all live in this real world. We know that there are some people that we don't want this in this country because they can do us harm. And we will support measures that will go along those lines.
"[But] need to have very clear criteria and then it needs to be put in the hands of independent people. I'll tell you why — depending on whose in power if you agree with their political ideology you'll bring them in and if you don't you won't."
Immigration attorney Michael Niren is also suspicious of Kenney's motives.
"The government when asking for 'discretionary powers', is really a veiled but transparent attempt to circumvent more objective, black and white legislation," he told Yahoo! in an email.
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"In the case at hand, Kenny wants to use his discretionary powers to refuse entry to persons whom he deems as undesirable citing public policy as a justification. It remains to be seem what kind of 'criteria' will be outlined but I can assure you it will likely be as generally worded as possible to allow for the Department to waive its magic wand preventing undesirables from entering Canada."
Bill C-43 will now move to the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration. It's expected to pass by the end of the Fall session.