Monday, March 9, 2015

Crimmigration and the Harper punishment agenda

by Claire Delisle, Instructor, Criminology, University of Ottawa

With respect to citizenship and rights, Harper’s cynical neoliberal agenda has had devastating consequences for some, including thousands of immigrants who have been detained.  Increasingly, asylum seekers, permanent residents and other non-Canadian people are facing difficulties in obtaining citizenship or even staying in the country.

Crimmigration refers to the intertwining of criminal law and immigration law. Several bills have been legislated under Harper’s watch, including C-24C-31 and C-43 which put into question the notion that Canada is a land of welcome for people facing harsh conditions in their country of origin, be it due to wars, famine, or other related reasons. Not only are conditions more difficult for non-Canadians, but with the passing of C-24 last February, Canadian citizens can be faced with the revocation of their citizenship as well.  If a person is stripped of citizenship, he or she no longer has any rights as per the Charter, including no rights to have health care, the ability to work, or the possibility of obtaining a passport.

Since Harper has been in power, changes to immigration laws have resulted in further exclusionary practices for foreign nationals who fit a certain profile. This has led to a swelling of immigration detention. For instance, the Lindsay jail, a maximum-security facility is currently warehousing several dozen of immigration detainees indefinitely. Since 2013, these detainees have waged a struggle for the recognition of their rights by undertaking resistance tactics to draw attention to their plight. Canada is one of only a handful of states using “administrative detention” to confine non-citizens, which is in direct contravention of  international human rights norms against using facilities to incarcerate the criminalized for the purposes of immigration detention. 

Furthermore, refugees targeted by a security certificate are left in limbo. For instance, Mohamed Harkat, who has exhausted his litigation possibilities faces an uncertain future. It has been 15 years since he was originally slapped with a certificate and now has turned to the United Nations in the hopes of finding resolution to his situation and avoid deportation.

Bill C-31,  Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act, targets undocumented migrants and imposes new rules to the way such foreign nationals are treated upon arriving in Canada. According to the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, this bill enables the government to arbitrarily detain groups of refugees, separate children from their parents, authorize the stripping of permanent residence from refugees, and gives Ministers broad, unfettered and unprecedented discretion.

Bill C-43, the Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act, introduced in June 2012, eliminates access to the Immigration Appeal Division (IAD) of the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) for permanent residents or family class members who receive certain criminal sentences in Canada or are believed to have committed offences outside Canada (Canadian Bar Association, 2012). This bill also gives the Minister the discretion to deny entry on “public policy grounds”. This represents a double punishment where those sentenced not only serve time in prison, but face deportation upon release.

Bill C-24, the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act, provides the government with increased powers to strip Canadians of their citizenship. Historically, citizenship revocation has been used not only in the case of foreign nationals who fraudulently apply for citizenship, but also to get rid of certain groups, for instance, naturalized Canadians believed to be Communists, back in the 1920s. Essentially the legislation aims to introduce a two-tiered system of citizenship, Canadian-born and naturalized citizens. It introduces the possibility of stripping citizenship from citizens who have or could get a second citizenship, if they are guilty of committing a terrorist offence. This legislation is an exclusionary piece of legislation because over 70% of Canadians who have dual citizenship are naturalized and not Canadian born. But Canadian citizenship has also been stripped of Canadian-born people, rendering them “stateless”. This is the case of Deepan Budlakoti, who, though born on Canadian soil, has had his citizenship revoked on the grounds of a criminal (non terrorist) offence for which he has served the time.

Considerable changes have been brought forth by the Harper government that change the conditions for citizens, both naturalized and Canadian-born, as well as to every status of person residing in Canada.  Such changes can be interpreted as the continuation of governing by exception and is tantamount to a liquidation of democracy (Tingsten, 1934, 333, in Agamben, 2000, The State of Exception, 7). Banning entire categories of people and detaining them indefinitely is a grave step backwards, and a complete abnegation of international human right norms.


No comments:

Post a Comment