OTTAWA – The passage in the House of Commons last night of Bill C-31, the so-called Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act. moves Canada farther away from the values of a majority of Canadians, said Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, MP Saanich-Gulf Islands.
“When these desperate people arrive in Canada, we must ensure that their refugee claims are investigated while protecting their Charter rights,” said May, “but this bill violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and our international human rights obligations, including the Geneva Conventions. The detention of children from 16-18 also violates the International Rights of the Child.”
Due to the outrage surrounding Bill C-31, Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney introduced certain modifications. However, at a projected cost of $70, 000 per person a year, Bill C-31 will still see men, women and children over 16 who arrive in an "irregular” way interned for up to a year – proven to have mental health effects. Children under 16 will probably end up staying with their mothers in detention. The act is silent about the fate of children younger than 16.
“Australia tried this cruel and shameful policy and is now returning to the model Bill C-31 will destroy,” said May.
In designating certain countries of origin for fast-tracking certain refugee cases, the Harper Conservatives are creating a discriminatory, two-tiered system, rather than giving everyone a fair hearing, based on the facts and regardless of their country of origin. Bill C-31 gives the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration sole discretion to designate “fast track” countries of origin, making the system vulnerable to political interests.
New overly short timelines before determination hearings will disadvantage refugees who have experienced serious trauma, such as torture, refugees who lack important documents, and refugees who need to build trust to freely tell their story before the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB).
At the same time, over the next three years, the Department of Immigration will be cut by about $179 million and almost $23 million of that will come from the Immigration and Refugee Board. The relatively small IRB has lost 106 positions.
“Canada has historically been seen as a refuge for those who often risk their lives to escape their own countries because of they fear for their safety due to political, religious, gender, or other forms of persecution, and other reasons that make their homeland a dangerous place to live,” said May. “The Harper Conservatives have just closed the door to many of these people.
“I know most Canadians would be shocked to learn that our country will be treating truly needy human beings in such a mean-spirited way.”