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Ottawa considers changing law to keep suspected fugitives behind bars

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews has announced the Canada Border Services Agency is expanding its wanted list of alleged war crimminals and illegal immigrants.

Aaron Vincent Elkaim/The Canadian Press/Aaron Vincent Elkaim/The Canadian Press

The release on bail of a violent fugitive who was included on a "most wanted" list has the federal Public Safety Minister thinking about changing the law.

Walter Ernesto Guzman of El Salvador was ordered released last week on $3,000 cash bond after appearing before the Immigration and Refugee Board.

Mr. Guzman, who was in the country illegally after being convicted of drug trafficking, assault and other serious offences, surrendered to Montreal police Aug. 19.

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Vic Toews says the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act is geared too much toward releasing people who are to be deported, putting the onus on government to prove that those in custody are a danger to the public, a flight risk or both.

"Quite frankly, I think we need to examine that legislation to see whether that kind of a presumption is in fact appropriate in cases where individuals have been convicted of serious criminality in this country, who are under a removal order and who have evaded arrest in some cases for years," Mr. Toews said when asked about the Guzman case.

Mr. Toews was also critical of the Immigration and Refugee Board, saying too many of the board's decisions are overturned by the courts.

"The federal court has overturned a number of the decisions of the IRB in this kind of a context," Mr. Toews noted.

"So whether it's just IRB adjudicators making decisions that aren't supported in law as the federal court has found or whether there needs to be changes to the legislation is something my staff is looking at now."

Mr. Guzman was among three suspects with lengthy criminal records who were arrested within 24 hours after the Canada Border Services Agency posted online mug shots of 32 dangerous foreign criminals.

The pictures were included in a new section of the "Wanted by the CBSA" page on the agency's website.

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All are wanted on Canada-wide removal warrants, while many on the list could not be found after they finished serving time in custody.

Almost everyone on the list has multiple convictions, with assault-related offences the most common infraction. And they come from all over the world, including China, Europe, Latin America and Africa.

Canada deported more than 15,000 people last year, including 1,800 who were associated with criminal acts or involved in committing crimes.

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