Are You Against Bill C-31?

Refugees are persons who have fled their country or been expelled from it and who cannot or will not return because they have a well-founded fear of persecution. Policies pertaining to refugees in Canada are constantly changing; they have certainly been on the Tory government’s agenda. Many Canadians/permanent residents are not aware of such critical and adverse changes; some or a few have not even heard of “Bill C-31”!

Bill C-31 is one of the federal government’s omnibus bills; it’s called “Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act”. But the question that must be looked at or answered is whether this Bill is really protecting Canada’s immigration system? What are the proposed changes?

Despite the fact that many are not aware of the existence of such an omnibus Bill; on the contrary the ones that are fully cognizant are strongly against it; but why are they against it? What is this Bill all about? Is it true that this Bill places refugees lives at risk?

Firstly, Bill C-31 places an overwhelming power/discretion in the hands of the Minister, the Minister decides which countries are considered safe; but what does that mean?

It means that the Minister “would be able to create a list of safe countries assuming that the residents of these countries cannot possibly suffer persecution”. Let’s elaborate on this point, so what we can deduce is that a refugee claimant from the so-called safe countries will not have access to the same refugee process if the Minister deems that country to be on the “Safe List”, that is individual circumstances of persecution in their country of origin will not be given any weight/serious consideration. So let’s say a woman refugee claimant fearing gender related persecution arrives from Mexico, and the Minister decides that Mexico is a safe country; then the Mexican claimant will not be considered a refugee!

Moreover that claimant will not have access to an appeal and shorter time lines to defend her case. Isn’t that considered a violation of human rights, and a blatant violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom?

Bill C-31 “is another step towards creating a Canadian immigration and refugee system that decides immigrants into desirable and undesirables”. What other changes do we expect? Well, secondly, the Bill targets “irregular arrivals”; Bill C-31 permits/authorizes the Minister to place these refugees into detention for a minimum of 12 months, without the right to have their case reviewed by the Immigration and Refugee Board.

Doesn’t this jeopardize the lives of refugee claimants in Canada? But what is notable about this humane Bill is that it exempts minors below the age of 16 from detention!

According to the government the gist behind such proposed amendment is to impose penalties on claimants and refugees who are designated as part of an irregular arrival.

Another controversial issue that is noteworthy mentioning is the potential loss of permanent residence under clause 19 of Bill C-31 whereby:

“the government will be able to apply to the IRB at any time for a decision that a refugee is no longer at risk in their home country”.

In other words, if circumstances change in a claimant country of origin; a refugee resident who have already have lived in Canada for many years could lose their residency and be deported.

Can this be considered protecting the integrity of Canada’s Immigration System?

I’ll leave that up to the reader to decide.

Ahmad AlAzem
Immigration Program Student at Ashton College
under the tutelage of Jose Godoy Toku

Please Visit:

Why Bill C-31 Must Be Rejected: An open letter to Immigration Minister Jason Kenney
Bill C-31 – Fast but not as fair: Major changes to Canada’s refugee system

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