Anti-human smuggling bill will be re-introduced: Kenney

Posted by admin on May 4th, 2011

Stewart Bell, National Post, May 4 2011

The Conservatives intend to reintroduce their controversial anti-human smuggling bill when Parliament resumes, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said on Wednesday. Anyone considering handing their life savings over to a smuggling organization that promises to send them to Canada by ship should “think again” now that the Tories have a majority, the Minister said in an interview.

The Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada’s Immigration System Act, which died when Parliament halted for the federal election, would be passed into law without any major changes, he said.

“The bill will obviously have to be debated and considered at committee, and reasonable amendments will be given thoughtful consideration by the government,” Mr. Kenney said from Calgary.

“But we think essentially that the bill has the right balance between maintaining our humanitarian legal obligations for refugee protection while at the same time creating deterrents for those who would seek to target Canada in large-scale smuggling operations.”

The bill was a response to two smuggling ships that arrived off the British Columbia coast in 2009 and 2010 carrying almost 600 migrants who had agreed to pay smugglers tens of thousands of dollars for the journey to Canada from Thailand.

The same Southeast Asian smuggling syndicates have reportedly been collecting money for another sea voyage to Canada.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper made an issue of human smuggling during the election, at one point posing with one of the ships, the MV Ocean Lady. The other ship, the MV Sun Sea, was featured in a Conservative television ad.

Under the proposed legislation, migrants who arrive on smuggling ships could be detained for up to a year and, even if accepted as refugees, they would not be allowed to become landed immigrants or sponsor relatives for five years.

The government says the tough measures will make migrants less willing to pay the fees demanded by smugglers. “We really want to throw a big question mark into that economic calculation that some people are making,” the Minister said.

Opposition parties condemned the bill, saying it would not work and that it was unfair to treat refugees differently because they travel to Canada by ship. Now that the Conservatives have a majority, however, they no longer need opposition support.

Mr. Kenney said he would stay on as immigration minister if the Prime Minister asked him to. “We’ve got a very active agenda for immigration reform and I certainly wouldn’t object to the chance to see many of these changes through to their completion, but if he asks me to take on new challenges I’d be delighted as well.”

National Post

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