This summer, two bills – C-31 and C-38 – passed through Parliament amidst a flood of commentary and reporting in national media. C-31 and C-38, known as the “Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act” and the “Jobs, Growth, and Long-term Prosperity Act,” respectively, have a hugely detrimental effect on those seeking refuge in Canada, those immigrating to the country, and those who have recently arrived in Canada, including many members of our own community.
Introduced by Citizenship, Immigration, and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney in order “to protect the integrity of Canada’s immigration system,” Bill C-31 will mean stricter regulation of refugees. One of the bill’s most troubling provisions includes the Minister’s ability to designate so-called “safe” countries, whose refugees will be treated differently than refugees from countries not on the list. (The Toronto Board of Rabbis published a letter to Stephen Harper, stating that they were concerned about this categorization, as “countries where the majority lives in safety can be dangerous for minority groups.”) The new legislation also requires refugees to prove their claims within 15 days of arriving – an unrealistically short amount of time to learn a complicated legal procedure immediately after potentially taxing relocation. On top of all of this, Bill C-31 also endangers refugees who have been granted status – meaning that hundreds of thousands who have come to Canada and resettled are now at risk. With this bill, even those refugees who have gone through the legal system successfully cannot integrate themselves without the fear of deportation.
Bill C-38, colloquially referred to as the Omnibus Budget Bill, includes an amendment to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which wiped out all pre-2008 applications under the Federal Skilled Worker Program. This devastating provision resulted in a 280,000-application backlog being deleted.
These latest developments are part of the larger trend of systematic mistreatment of immigrants by the current government. A refugee entering Canada faces rapidly diminishing support. These bills coincide with the cuts to the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP), a program which provides refugees with temporary healthcare. As our country’s reliance on foreign workers mounts in a variety of industries – including many outside the expected occupations of agriculture and domestic work – the defunding of resources for immigrants is, economically, short-term thinking. It is also representative of the Harper government’s attitude toward international relations. Immigrants have made Canada a much wealthier country, one that can celebrate its very real diversity. Recent government actions will not only hurt immigrants seeking refuge and opportunity, but all of us.