Federal Immigration minister Jason Kenney and the Conservatives are making it abundantly clear that Canada’s time as a leader in providing aid to refugees in need is coming to an end. The new immigration policy is one where money talks and bullshit walks, only the bullshit here happens to be fear, persecution and danger.
Last week, Kenney announced in his yearly report to parliament that by 2010 Canada will be admitting fewer refugees in the years ahead. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, 27,865 asylum seekers entered into Canada in 2007. That number has been steadily declining ever since.
These figures show a shift in immigration policy under the Conservative government, who want to streamline the immigration system to combat alleged abuses. Kenney’s report includes data that shows that the number of successful refugee claims from asylum seekers have fallen by half since the Conservatives have taken power. In a system that offers no recourse for appeal, this sets a dangerous precedent.
An example of the tightening grip around immigration is when the government placed visa requirements on visitors from Mexico and Czech Republic coming to Canada this summer. This trend will drastically change the way Canada is perceived &- as a safe haven for refugees &- in the international community.
The status and treatment of refugees is governed internationally by the United Nations 1951/1967 Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees which defines a refugee as any person that, “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable…or unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country…or is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.”
Nations are asked to cooperate with the UN High Commission on refugees, but actual legislation relating to each nation’s action on the protocol is a national decision.
Upon arriving in Canada, refugee status must be declared at customs, where an official does a cursory check of an individual’s eligibility before transferring successful claimants to the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB).
This board, which operates independently of Citizenship and Immigration Canada, then must examine each case to determine whether the individual meets the criteria of a protected person under Canadian law.
The hearing process can take months or even years, and the board’s decisions are final.
Claimants have no opportunity for appeal, except under extenuating circumstances, and usually only on the grounds of egregious legal error.
Any person who fails an IRB claim faces immediate removal from Canada, often to dangerous, even life-threatening situations. Critics have cited a recent case where a 24 year-old Mexican woman was found murdered after failing two Canadian refugee claims.
Between 1990 and 2000 Canada was ranked as the second most hospitable nation to refugees seeking asylum, a reputation that politicians bore internationally with pride. The Conservative government’s planned immigration reforms, along with the hyper security measures in post-9/11, are eroding that image daily.
Canada’s boarders are no longer safe shores for the persecuted masses of the world.. Just ask the 76 Sri Lankan asylum seekers that have been languishing in a B.C. detention facility for over a month. They have been paraded in front of numerous courts, accused of terrorist ties and have had their identities banned from release by the IRB. This is far from the hospitality Canadian’s imagine themselves known for on the world stage.
The report’s statistics have also drawn criticism for the preferential emphasis being placed on allowing “economy class” immigrants into Canada over others. Harkening back to the immigration policy of early British Dominion authorities, this policy would place preferential treatment on the financial situation of people over humanitarian needs. Of the projected 240,000-265,000 immigrants to be allowed into Canada over the next year 166,800 are expected to be in the economy class, over 65% of the total.