On March 28, the Canadian Labour Congress wrote a letter to Jason Kenney, the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism. Here are some extracts:
Regrettably, Bill C-31 does not protect Canada’s immigration system; instead, it represents a serious threat for asylum-seekers and gives unprecedented powers to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration and the Minister of Public Safety.
The merger of former efforts to reform the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act will effectively: detain groups of refugees; keep families apart; undermine the refugee claims process; introduce the use of biometrics; and authorize the stripping of permanent residency status from refugees. These developments are poor policy options.
Equally disturbing is the government’s move to limit parliamentary debate and meaningful public engagement on an important topic.
The many flaws in Bill C-31 warrant its withdrawal. For example, the 15-day deadline for refugees to establish their claims is not fair or realistic for the tasks of seeking legal advice and responding to complex legalities, or the challenges of gathering evidence to prove their claims.
Furthermore, the 15-day appeal process creates the illusion of an opportunity to correct mistakes that can be made by the Immigration and Refugee Board. There is little doubt this is an impossibly short deadline and denies refugees of democratic process. The results will be a greater risk of refugees being deported to a serious risk of persecution.
The proposed powers that would be given to the Ministers of Citizenship and Immigration and Public Safety are extreme.
The ability for any parliamentarian to impose mandatory, warrantless, automatic and unreviewable imprisonment of some refugee claimants for as long as one year; to deny them ability to reunite with family members; to detain children under 16 years of age or to forcibly separate them from accompanying parents for one year; and to strip refugees of secure legal status; is horrifically at odds with Canadian values that have for decades welcomed women, men and children fleeing dictators, torture and violence.
Policy directions such as these will run afoul of constitutional rights and our country’s humanitarian tradition.
The CLC calls on the government to withdraw Bill C-31 and instead implement Bill C-11, the Balanced Refugee Reform Act, which was passed with the unanimous approval of parliament subject to the elimination of the 15-day disclosure interview requirement and with the inclusion of reasonable time limits (i.e., 30 days) for refugees to deliver their initial claim information and for filing of any appeals.
• • • •
Philip Berger, Bernie Farber and Clayton Ruby wrote in The Globe and Mail, June 15:
As Canadian Jews, we grew up hearing stories about how our families came to this country as refugees. We also heard about the relatives who never arrived because of the Canadian government’s closed-door policy for Jews. Historians Irving Abella and Harold Troper’s book None is Too Many told of this sad and ultimately deadly policy….
Most recently, with the passage of refugee and immigration Bill C-31, alongside suggested cuts to refugees’ health care, the federal government is creating what it calls “designated countries,” or DCOs, that it considers “safe.”
Refugees from DCOs will now have only a short time to prepare for their hearings, and will effectively lose their right of appeal. Additionally, refugees will have no access to primary or emergency health care, even in the case of pregnancy or heart attack.
While refugee claimants from DCOs are singled out for particularly alarming treatment under the new federal rules, the changes will harm all those claiming refugee status. Claimants will lose access to life-saving drugs, such as insulin, and to preventive care. Physicians across the country warn that these changes will result in severe illness and death.
While DCOs have yet to be named, Hungary will assuredly be on the list. If these policy changes come into effect, Roma refugee claimants will lose access to health care on June 30. We are also likely to see many more deportations of Roma back to Hungary.
Judaism teaches the concept of tikkun olam, an exhortation to repair the world. If passed, Bill C-31 would be antithetical to these values. It is our hope that as Canadians hear more about the dangers of this legislation, they too will not stand by as refugees lose basic health care and persecuted groups or individuals are sent back to face violence in their home countries.
Today, we go on record as Jews and descendants of immigrants to say that we oppose cuts to refugee health care and the designation of so-called “safe” countries. Denying other human beings health care and a haven based on their country of origin is simply wrong. As Jews and human rights activists, we know well that countries deemed safe for the majority can be deadly for some minorities.
Pressure must continue. It’s never too late to ask for changes or amendments to the regulations. Ironically, we also understand that, were our families to arrive today under the federal government’s new rules, they would be denied health care and, ultimately, citizenship. Returning to the retrograde policies that inspired None is Too Many must be rejected.
• • • • •
Suleyman Goven in rabble.ca, June 12. Suleyman Goven is a Toronto-based refugee advocate, human rights activist, translator and interpreter, and the chief editor of Yeni Hayat, a monthly Turkis/Kurdish newspaper.
On Monday, June 11, Bill C-31 passed third reading in the House of Commons by a vote of 159 to 132.
As a refugee advocate, I was saddened to find out that Bill C-31 had passed the final hurdle in the House of Commons. This most oppressive bill will tarnish the prestige and reputation of Canada at the international level.
The Minister of Immigration claims that the Bill is designed to combat human smuggling. However, the real Conservative agenda is to punish the most vulnerable people of the world. Once those traumatized refugees are thrown behind bars, their suffering will be enormous. The social and psychological dimensions of their suffering cannot be measured.