The federal government is plowing ahead with a controversial U.S.-style "one strike and you're out" deportation policy that has drawn fire from immigration lawyers and others who work with newcomers.
If passed, the proposed bill -- brought to Parliament last week by Immigration Minister Jason Kenney -- will force the deportation of non-Canadians who have been convicted of a crime and sentenced to six months or more in jail.
Kenney said Bill C-43 -- The Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act -- will streamline the deportation of convicted criminals by limiting their access to appeals.
He said the law would ensure foreign nationals who are inadmissible on the most serious grounds -- security, human or international rights violations, or organized criminality -- will no longer be able to delay their deportation by applying for humanitarian and compassionate consideration.
But Toronto lawyers claim the law will target permanent residents, many of whom arrived in Canada at a young age and were raised, educated, and have established families and businesses here.
Toronto lawyer Mendel Green called the proposal heavy-handed, claiming it will have a significant affect on the immigrant community since many do not take out citizenship.
"I am concerned about the monumental affect this will have on the immigrant community if it becomes law," Green said Monday. "This will be a life sentence for many people."
Andras Schreck, vice-president of the Ontario Criminal Lawyers Association, said the bill raises constitutional issues under Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
"I am concerned that there is no right of appeal for those being deported," Schreck said. "This is serious injustice in that cases should be heard on their own merit."
Lawyer Joel Sandaluk said if the bill becomes law, it will split up families.
"This will destroy families who've been here for a long time," Sandaluk said. "It will create more criminals if parents or other family members are removed from Canada."
The lawyers are holding a news conference on Wednesday to highlight the issue.
Bill C-43 also proposes a new authority to review the temporary entry of visitors and increased penalties for those who try to cheat the system.
The "one strike and you're out" bill stems from the "three strikes laws" in 24 U.S. states that mandates their courts impose life sentences on people convicted of three or more serious criminal offences.