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Deportation, treat everybody equally

Deportation, treat everybody equally

Deportation, treat everybody equally

by The Honourable Joe Volpe, Publisher

TORONTO – We should have zero tolerance for convicted criminals, criminal organizations and their associates. That is a view that I share. It is the one that a senior MP and bureaucrats expressed when I sought their advice on a “clemency” issue that had been presented to me on behalf of a constituent.

Their attitude was “black and white”. No room for grey areas. I was new.

The constituent (I will call him L.C.) was a thirty-something, married to an [Anglo-] Canadian with whom he had fathered two Canadian-born children. He had come to Canada as a child, at the age of three. Canada was the only home he knew. English was his only language of communication.

Educated and raised here, he was blissfully unaware of his citizenship status, until he was arrested and convicted for possession of Marijuana and with intent to deal in a prohibited substance. He served time for his crime.

The Law required it; still does, even if “legitimate” dispensaries are sprouting like weeds (no pun intended) in our city and elsewhere in the country.

But sometimes the Law seems differently applied. I thought of him last week, when the Michele Torre “issue”– a Permanent Resident of Canada for the last 50 years, now facing deportation – surfaced “out of the blue”.

Kelly Leitch, candidate for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada, would appear to exemplify this “discriminating application” of the Law. She wants immigrants to prove their loyalty to Canada. It’s to safeguard Canadian values, she argues. And to protect Canada from those who would erode them.

Like two candidates in the Toronto Mayoralty race in 2010, I thought. One was a former provincial cabinet Minister and cocaine addict (“I use Party Drugs”, he confessed). The other, and winner, was also a drug user who confessed to a dependence on white powder when he was in a “drunken stupor”. That explains at least one Canadian value.

Neither of them were convicted of possession of a restricted product. Who was going to charge a Cabinet Minister or a Mayor? It could be argued that their consumption habits, satisfied as they were by suppliers with connections to international criminal organizations, might land them in the same boat as Mr. Torre.

The Corriere Canadese will not make that argument. But, they didn’t have foreign sounding names. And, they were born here, so to where would Canada deport them? There’s a lesson for those like Mr. Torre, who, for whatever reason, did not take out citizenship when he was first eligible at age 19: become a citizen and you don’t have to pay twice.

Nonetheless, it seems a little odd that known criminal organizations and their associates (“Biker” gangs, for example) are not rounded up and jailed, or deported. It is not as if they are hiding or concealing what they do to generate income. They can ”eat away” at Canadian values in complete tranquillity.

It is highly unlikely that anyone would come to Mr. Torre’s defense.

But one is tempted to ask where are those Italian Canadian organizations with the [often] self-declared leadership role to speak for principle and people from the community: the National Congress of Italian Canadians, the COMITES, the CIBPA, Villa Charities… the list goes on.

It does not appear that they recognize a “principle” to defend or at least question. They are not new to the game.

I lost track of L.C. But, over the years, and with more experience under my belt, I listened with empathy and acted with greater independence and effectiveness on behalf of other “clemency” cases brought to me by Portuguese, Greek, Indian, Israeli and, yes, Italian parents. Their kids “had gone astray”, paid for their deed, but were shipped to a foreign country upon exiting from Her Majesty’s hotels.

Their parents acknowledged that they had returned in a clandestine manner, but they were now hard-working and reliable. They exhibit these good “Canadian values”. Why send them back and punish their parents and families further?

They would be just a few years younger than Mr. Torre. Like him, they didn’t come from a place of “shared values”.

That does not excuse their crime. Conviction disqualifies them from Permanent Residency and Citizenship.

Somehow, this detail was put aside in the case of Conrad Black. You may recall that he relinquished his Canadian citizenship so that he could be appointed to the House of Lords in England.

No problem – until he was charged and convicted of fraud and obstruction of justice. He served 37 months in US jail.

This would normally have disqualified him from re-entering Canada. But a former Minister of Immigration (not me) granted him a visa on a year-to-year basis. Clemency is a part of the system, as they say.

Mr. Black is sufficiently rehabilitated that other citizens and entrepreneurs have offered him positions in their companies, including hosting media programs.

This is what happens when people and organizations speak on your behalf.

(Tuesday 13 September 2016)

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