Posted: Wednesday, 28 March 2012
March 27, 2012
The Honourable Jason Kenney, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6
Dear Minister Kenney,
The Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) is gravely concerned with the government’s introduction of Bill C-31, An Act to Amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, The Balanced Refugee Reform Act, The Marine Transportation Security Act and The Department of Citizenship and Immigration Act.
Regrettably, this bill 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 or 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.