Protect Refugees from Bill C-31 joint statement
03 May 2012
In March 2012, KAIROS endorsed Protect Refugees from Bill C-31, a joint statement initiated by the Justice for Refugees and Immigrants Coalition, which is comprised of Amnesty International, the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, and the Canadian Council for Refugees.
Endorsed by dozens of human rights and social justice organizations, the statement raises serious concerns about many of the bill’s provisions and reaffirms support for an immigration system that is fair, independent of political considerations, and affordable. It describes the bill as “bad policy” and calls for its withdrawal.
Bill C-31, or Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act, has passed second reading and is currently being reviewed in committee. It is expected to pass into law by the end of June before parliament adjourns for the summer.
With this bill, it appears that the Government of Canada is shifting its focus from protecting God’s creation and people in need to protecting the immigration system.
The bill’s title also suggests that the existing system is under threat and needs to be protected from abuse. But do Canadians believe it is more important to protect the system rather than people in need?
Bill-C31 includes provisions that will give broad and unprecedented powers to the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism. Under this legislation, the Minister will have the authority to put refugees in jail for up to 12 months without a judicial review. This violates the rights guaranteed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and international law, which protect everyone from arbitrary detention.
Another provision in the bill would allow the Minister to designate “safe countries”. This means that refugee claimants from certain countries will not be allowed into Canada if the Minister rules that those countries are “safe”. This gives the Minister too much discretionary power and goes against international law which calls for a case-by-case process for refugee determination.
Bill C-31 also will impose unrealistic deadlines on all refugee claimants. Refugee claimants will have only 15 days to prepare their refugee claim. Failure to meet the deadlines may disqualify claimants. The timeframe is unfair and unreasonable and does not provide enough time for newly-arrived refugees to seek legal advice, respond to complicated legal requirements, and gather the evidence to prove their claim.
Similarly, unsuccessful claimants will have only 15 days to appeal an initial refusal. This deadline is unrealistic and will make it all but impossible for an appeal to correct mistakes made by the Immigration and Refugee Board.
Another serious concern for the community is that Bill C-31 will allow the government to remove refugee claimants whose claims were not accepted without a Pre-Removal Risk Assessment. Unlike the Balanced Refugee Reform Act, there is no assurance of a fair, accessible appeal to catch errors made at the first level. There will now be an unfair claim process, an unreliable appeal, and a much greater risk of refugees being deported.
KAIROS joins human rights organizations, refugee groups and community partners in calling for a fair, independent and affordable refugee system. Bill C-31 creates an unfair system for deciding refugee claims, gives the Minister too much power, and does not provide any means for judicial accountability. It is unconstitutional, undermines Canada’s humanitarian tradition, represents a move away from democratic principles, and violates Canada’s international human rights obligations. It must be withdrawn.
For more information and to support community action and campaigns on this issue please follow the following links:
For more general information contact:
Migrant and Indigenous Rights Program Coordinator
Tel: 1-877-403-8933 Ext. 251