Under the Constitution, the federal government has power, through immigration laws, to remove (or deport) foreign-born people from the country. The conditions for deportation have changed over the years, and deportation has been used for political as well as security purposes. Canadian deportation policy – often controversial – provides a window into the concerns of the state over the course of its history.
Refugees and asylum seekers flee their countries in hopes of safety abroad. Governed by the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, refugee status is a matter of both international and domestic law. Historically, Canada has assisted many refugees from all over the world. However, human migration is a complex phenomenon, and Canada's refugee policies are also not immune to the influence of political and popular opinion.
The Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction — better known as the Ottawa Treaty or the Mine Ban Treaty — resulted from Canada’s leadership and its cooperation with the International Campaign To Ban Landmines (ICBL). In 1992, six non-governmental organizations launched an awareness campaign with the goal of banning landmines worldwide. In October 1996, at the first Ottawa Conference, Canadian minister of Foreign Affairs Lloyd Axworthy launched the Ottawa Process, which led to the ratification of the Mine Ban Treaty, signed by 122 countries at the Second Ottawa Conference in December 1997. The Ottawa Process was an innovative, unprecedented initiative that required a strategic partnership among countries, non-governmental organizations, international groups and the United Nations.
In the 1985 Singh case, the Supreme Court of Canada declared that the legal guarantees of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms apply to "everyone" physically present in Canada, including foreign asylum seekers. The court also said refugees have the right to a full oral hearing of their claims, before being either accepted into the country or deported. The decision drastically changed the way refugees are dealt with in Canada.
Marijuana has been prohibited in Canada for nearly a century, but the federal government has introduced legislation to make it legal by 2018 – a change supported by a majority of Canadians, despite concerns about the drug's addictiveness, especially among young people. Legalizing marijuana requires changes to international treaties, Canadian laws, and social practices.
From 1978 to 2001, at least 65 women disappeared from the Downtown Eastside district of Vancouver, British Columbia, prompting the largest serial killer investigation in Canadian history. Robert Pickton was charged with murdering 26 of the women, and was convicted on six charges. In a jail cell conversation with an undercover police officer, Pickton claimed to have murdered 49 women.
On 19 December 2015, Dennis Oland was convicted of second-degree murder in the bludgeoning death of his father, Richard (Dick) Oland. A year later the conviction was overturned on appeal, and a new trial ordered. The initial, 65-day trial was the longest in New Brunswick history. It also drew national attention due to its brutal nature and revelations about the storied Oland family, founders of the Moosehead brewing empire.
The ongoing Syrian conflict has catalyzed different responses in Canada. The Liberal government of Justin Trudeau, which came into power in November 2015, has greatly expanded the resettlement of Syrian refugees into Canada. However, the policies have also been criticized as Canada continues to fight Islamophobia and negative attitudes about refugees.
Alikomiak (also spelled Alekámiaq) and Tatimagana, Inuit hunters from the central Arctic, were the first Inuit to be condemned and executed for murder under Canadian law on 1 February 1924. The trials of Alikomiak and Tatimagana have been described as demonstrations of federal authority over the Inuit as well as of Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic.
Everett George Klippert was the only Canadian ever declared a dangerous sexual offender and sentenced to what amounted to life in prison, for no other reason than he was homosexual. Outrage over that sentence, upheld by the Supreme Court in 1967, led to the decriminalization of homosexual acts two years later. In 2016, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau indicated he would recommend a pardon for Klippert and consider pardoning all men who were charged, convicted and punished simply because they were gay.
On December 6, 1989, a young man, Marc Lépine, burst into a class at Montréal's École Polytechnique armed with an automatic weapon. He separated the male and female students and fired point blank on the latter screaming, "You are all feminists." Fourteen young women were murdered and 13 other people wounded. Lépine then turned his gun on himself and committed suicide. Later, a list of eminent women was found whom he had identified as "feminists to slaughter."
Every year on 6 December, the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, the women who lost their lives in the massacre are remembered. While flags are flown at half-mast, vigils, conferences and demonstrations are held in remembrance. Despite these efforts, assigning meaning to the shooting has stirred controversy — and continues to do so.
In 1989, Canadians David Spencer and Christine Lamont were jailed for the political kidnapping of a Brazilian businessman. From their prison cells they insisted on their innocence. Nine years later, after admitting their guilt, they were transferred to Canadian prisons and paroled.
Although little is known about Chloe Cooley, an enslaved woman in Upper Canada, her struggles against her “owner,” Sergeant Adam Vrooman, precipitated the Act to Limit Slavery in Upper Canada, 1793 — the first legislation in the British colonies to restrict the slave trade.