May 15, 2012 -
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney says that he is leaning towards amending his omnibus immigration bill in support of extending biometric ID requirements to permanent residents.
Kenney said: “I think in principle, we should be doing everything we reasonably can to identify visitors or immigrants and ensure they don’t represent a threat to Canada’s safety, so biometrics is the best technical tool at our disposal and I think in principle, that it should be applied to not just temporary but also permanent residents.” He made the statement shortly after testifying before a Commons committee, which is reviewing the Bill C-31 or the Protecting Canada’s Immigration Act.
He later confirmed that the government was indeed “considering” amending the bill to also include permanent residents.
Currently, only those who are entering Canada on a visitor’s visa, work permit or study visa will be subjected to fingerprinting and digital photography starting next year. Only Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration can legally collect the said data.
The members of the Commons committee placed Kenney on the “hot seat” Thursday as they grilled him on the controversial refugee bill for the very first time.
The bill aims to quickly deport refugee claimants who were found to be “bogus” in nature. It also seeks to wring a tighter rope on human smugglers and require particular visa holders to submit themselves for biometric data collection. On the other hand, the same Bill also fast tracks refugee application from countries, which are deemed “safe” and highly unlikely to produce real or true asylum claimants. It would also bar the same claimants from filing an appeal once their application has garnered a negative reply.
Bill C-31 is actually an improved version of the current Balanced Refugee Reform Act, which was adopted by the previous Parliament. Though the Conservatives approved the Bill with much publicity and fan fare after reaching a consensus with the NDP, it has yet to be implemented. The new Bill, however, has been met with much criticism by the Opposition New Democrats as it reintroduced several elements that were omitted in the first Bill.
Critics are also quick to say that the new Bill endows much power and authority to the Minister. They are worried that a refugee could possibly have his permanent residency permit revoked the moment their country of origin’s situation improves.
Kenney defended the Bill stating that it is aimed more on “streamlining” the current two-step process being used today to revoke the permits of those who have fraudulently acquired theirs. With that said, he also stated that he is open to any amendment that could clarify the situation.
The Minister also rejected proposals to have those who entered the country illegally, either by human trafficking or smuggling, be detained and consequently barring even the true refugees from getting a permanent resident status for five years. Doing so would violate international agreements and create a two-tier system.
Find Civil ID solutions and facial recognition technology in our biometrics service directory.