Feds to consider biometrics for permanent residents to combat fraud
Photograph by: Postmedia News , National Post
OTTAWA — Immigration Minister Jason Kenney says he supports extending biometric ID requirements to permanent residents and would consider amending his current omnibus immigration bill to make it happen.
“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,” Kenney said Thursday after testifying before a Commons committee reviewing Bill C-31, the Protecting Canada’s Immigration Act.
After hinting at it during the meeting, he confirmed the government was “considering” amending the bill to ensure it covers permanent residents.
Right now, the provision that would grant Citizenship and Immigration the legal authority to collect fingerprints and digital photographs starting next year only applies to those entering Canada on a visitor visa, work permit or study visa.
Kenney was on the hot seat Thursday as Commons committee members grilled him on his controversial refugee bill for the first time.
Bill C-31 seeks to deport so-called “bogus” refugee claimants more quickly, clamp down on human smugglers and require certain visa holders to turn over biometric data. The bill would fast-track refugee applications from so-called “safe” countries deemed unlikely to produce bona fide asylum claimants and bar those who receive a negative decision from filing an appeal.
It’s billed as an improvement to the Balanced Refugee Reform Act adopted during the previous Parliament but not yet implemented. That bill was approved with much fanfare after the then-minority Conservatives reached a consensus with the NDP. The new bill, however, effectively reintroduces the contentious elements that were omitted — a move that has the official Opposition New Democrats crying foul.
Critics also say the proposed legislation puts too much power in the hands of the minister and raised further concerns Thursday about a provision that could have the unintended consequence of revoking a refugee’s permanent residence due to improved circumstances in their country of origin.
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Kenney said the provision is actually aimed at “streamlining” the current two-step process for revoking the status of those found to have obtained their refugee status fraudulently and that he’s open to amendments that might clarify the situation.
He also rejected suggestions that detaining individuals who enter Canada by way of illegal smuggling operations and barring even the bona fide refugees among them from obtaining permanent resident status for five years violates international agreements and creates a two-tier system.