In keeping with its humanitarian traditions and international obligations, Canada offers protection to the vulnerable people of various ethnic backgrounds from all troubled parts of the world. Canada is well known to handle the emerging refugee situations; works closely with the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissions for Refugees) and enjoys recognition around the world for its leadership in resettling asylum seekers who need protection. It takes part in preventing “refugee smuggling scenarios” from further developing. Subject to tough scrutiny, refugee-protection is available here to claimants who fear persecution, a risk to their life or a risk of cruel treatment if they are deported back to their home countries.
Canadian Bill C-31 is an omnibus bill that is actually aimed at amending the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Balanced Refugee Reform Act, the Marine Transportation Security Act, and the Department of Citizenship and Immigration Act.
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With regard to “protecting Canada’s immigration system act,” strong criticism came from the civil society, the Canadian council for refugees, the refugee forum, the Canadian association of refugee lawyers, the Canadian civil liberties association, amnesty international.
Dealing with people seeking asylum in Canada has become questionable as sections 24 and 25 of Bill C-31 modify the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act in such a way that asylum claimants will be presumed as bogus, and they will have to remain in detention for up to one year before the “hearing” actually takes place to determine their status.
Hearings under the current law must be held within 48 hours which is a major change in Canada’s approach towards the protection of refugees, and regardless of how one might feel about the challenges of selecting and integrating new immigrants into Canadian society.
According to the legal/constitutional experts, the detention provisions of the said Bill violate several rights and freedoms guaranteed under the Charter of rights: this includes freedom from arbitrary detention, the right to prompt review of the reasons for detention, the right to liberty and security of the person, and freedom from cruel punishment indeed.
Section 9 of the Charter states that “everyone has the right not to be arbitrarily detained or imprisoned.” Section 10(c) provides that everyone who is arrested or detained has the right “to have the validity of the detention determined by way of habeas corpus and to be released if the detention is not lawful.
Additionally, fake claimants cause headache to the system. And, these queue jumpers have made problem from bad to worse leading to hardships for genuine asylum seekers. However, “the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act” makes several reforms to the refugee system, designed to crack down on bogus refugee claims.
Although, the government under immense pressure has proposed some amendments to the controversial new refugee bill, yet the critics still see major issues with the legislation.
Good and bad examples:
The original version of the bill, tabled last February, reads “asylum seekers who are part of mass arrivals would face mandatory detention for 12 months with no review.”
The amended version would require an initial review within 14 days, a second review six months later.
The government has saved itself from legal challenges under the original refugee law but is not completely off the hook yet.
The bill, as it was written originally, could have seen refugees who visited their now-peaceful home countries - lose their permanent residency status in Canada.
But now, the minister also promises to modify the bill’s wording for more clarity that refugees accepted years ago would not be retroactively deported to their homelands if conditions there improved.
The unfairly deprived, however, are the existing failed claimants, who would be barred by the authorities from applying for humanitarian consideration for 12 months, effective the day the said bill is passed.
No good news for the successful “mass arrival refugees,” as they would still be prevented from bringing over their children for five years.
The minister failed to define mass arrival (although the bill was prompted by the landing of two boatloads of Tamil asylum seekers in 2009 and 2010). And he did not provide any clarity either on how the government will designate “safe countries” to which asylum seekers can be sent back promptly with no right of appeal.
Despite changes in Bill C-31, there is no mechanism in place to challenge blunt refusal with respect to family reunification. Families are denied the opportunity to bring their spouse and children, because they did not list them when registering in refugee camps where people live in terrible conditions. Once the refugees arrive in Canada, they are given one-year window to declare another individual on their application.
Obviously, the mass migration to Canada is negative news for the locals as it adversely affects the rights of main stream lawful applicants. In fact, it severely slows down the processing of family re-unification regular cases.
But the fact remains that the asylum seekers including the boat loads of desperate people are not necessarily economic refugees or queue jumpers as most of them are genuine refugees running away desperately from life-threatening risky environment; thus deserve being accommodated according to law.