Harper Government’s Proposed Legislation to Punish Smugglers

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Conservative government revisits proposed legislation


Image source from lrargerich on flickr

The conservative government is urging opposition parties to support Bill C-49, a legislation that would punish anyone who smuggles illegal migrants into Canada.  According to Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, human smugglers are taking advantage of Canada’s immigration and refugee system.

Toews said that the Canadian government has information that criminal smuggling networks are creating new opportunities by using new bases and points of departure.  He feels that the legislation is necessary to combat the “growing concern”.

“We think not only will it deter individuals, but in fact it will make it easier to prosecute human smugglers,” he said.

The legislation was originally brought to the table in October, two months after the MV Sun Sea, a vessel with 492 Tamil migrants, docked in British Columbia.

Proposed legislation not supported by opposition

All three opposition parties have rejected the controversial bill, claiming that it violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  However, Toews explained that the legislation wouldn’t interfere with the rights of legitimate refugees to make claims to come to Canada, even if they arrive through “irregular mechanisms”.

The Minister worried that refugees would not be admitted to Canada while illegal migrants continue to enter the country because, according to recent polling, Canadians have adopted a “hardening of attitude” since the Sun Sea arrived with the Tamil migrants.

Recent arrival of Tamil migrants prompted proposed legislation

Last August, when the Tamil migrants arrived from Thailand, it became a national story.  The government was suspicious that some of the migrants are members of a terrorist group that is outlawed in Canada, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

The RCMP and Canada Border Services Agency have been investigating if some of the migrants on the Sun Sea, as well as another vessel that arrived in BC in October, are associated with militant groups or criminal networks.  The conservative government is hoping their findings will support their push for the legislation.

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