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Proposed immigration law changes “Draconian,” says Harnett

Article Originally Published on June 21, 2012 by Advocate Daily. 

Recently proposed changes to Canada’s immigration laws allowing for automatic deportation of permanent residents, refugees and visitors sentenced to more than six months in prison, should be alarming to all Canadians, says Toronto criminal lawyer Aaron Harnett.

The changes, tabled in a new immigration bill, also remove the right of appeal for any non-Canadian who is sentenced to more than six months in jail. Under the current rules, permanent residents, visitors and refugees who are sentenced to less than two years are allowed an appeal.

Read CBC story 

“The combination of mandatory minimum sentences and mandatory deportation will mean that first-time marijuana growers with 10 plants in their back fields, who have been permanent residents in Canada for 20 years, are going to be deported without the right to appeal either their one-year jail terms or their deportation orders. What crisis in Canadian society requires this kind of Draconian approach?” says Harnett.

“The changes demonstrate the Harper Government’s attack on discretion by those charged with the duty to be fair. In the same way the Prime Minister is stripping criminal court judges of their power and discretion to make the correct decisions in sentencing cases, they want to take away the power of immigration officials to make fair decisions in immigration cases,” he says.

Harnett notes that the power already existed to allow immigration officials to order the removal of persons sentenced to six month jail terms.

“There is no evidence that they were failing to exercise that power properly, so one might be surprised by the need to strip officials of their power,” he explains.

Canadians, he says, should be extremely alarmed by these measures.

“It is through the recourse to courts of law that members of free society can hold the power of government in check. When the lawmakers take such important powers for themselves, making unreviewable their powers over the freedom of the people, we are entering a dark time,” says Harnett.

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