In common with everyone else in this room today, I am here to discuss Bill C-31 – to be more specific – Immigration Minister Jason Kenney’s proposals to reform the system of refugee determination. Whilst most of us would agree that the system as it stands needs some amendment, I believe there are not many here today who think he’s got it right. I will show you why that is, what I firmly believe is so wrong about his proposals as they stand, and what we must do to make changes, so that an amended Bill C-31 will in fact be fit for purpose and will be fair to all interested parties in the matter of refugee immigration. Let’s look at some of the detail.
Although none would disagree that we must maintain control of immigration, it is wrong to automatically class asylum seekers as criminals. Not only is that approach discriminatory, it also conflicts with the Canadian Charter of Rights which guarantees fundamental rights for all. How can the Minister expect us to sit still for a Bill that allows him to “designate” any group of refugees – which may well include women and youngsters – and send them to jail for up to 12 months without other judicial process?! Furthermore, once in jail they could only be released if the Minister so decides or if their refugee status is confirmed. Clearly, that concept is totally contrary to the tradition of “innocent until proven guilty”.
Let’s look at another of his proposals: in this case to compile a “safe countries” list which is based on the assumption that residents of those countries could not possibly be the victims of persecution. On that basis, Canada would automatically deny those people refugee status, which is clearly not only unfair but to be frank is a nonsense. How can we in all conscience apply a “blanket” categorization to people based on their country of origin? And all of us in this room today must surely realise that there’s a high probability that political and/or economic considerations could influence whether particular countries are designated as “safe”. It is no accident that international law insists on an individualized system to be applied in matters affecting refugee status determination. The system proposed in Bill C-31 is far from that – indeed it is actually in effect an assessment of a group of people based on generalized “knowledge” gained secondhand.
Even the timescales proposed are way off beam. The proposals would give refugees just 15 days to file claims, meaning that most would be unlikely to be able to gather supporting evidence or obtain the necessary legal assistance in that time. As a consequence, it is certain that many genuine refugees would be sent back into potential danger on the basis of a technicality.
I could go on and on if given more time today. However, I have to limit myself to just one or two further points. Do you realize that the proposals would prohibit an unsuccessful applicant from applying for permanent residency on specified grounds, although the government – if it so wished – could deport the person during that time? The Bill as it stands would also allow the Minister to revoke any permanent residence status granted, just because in his opinion conditions in the refugee’s home country have improved. This clause makes a mockery of the term “permanent residency”.
Ladies and gentlemen: I thank you for listening, but beg you to vote for major amendments to this ill-thought out Bill. If it were to go through in its present form, I and many others believe it would be a travesty and a serious mistake. Thank you.
NG, Winnie, Des Rosiers, Nathalie, Bauder, Harald & Go, Avvy. Open letter to Jason Kenney: Bill C-31 must be rejected. rabble.ca. 27 April 2012. Web. 5 May 2012.