Canada’s commitment to refugee protection waning (gee, I wonder why)

So says Canadian refugee activist and executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees, Janet Dench, in response to the re-emergence of a bill to get at the problem of human smuggling—a reflection of a much enhanced concern among Canadians to slow the open door policies of former Canadian governments.  Bottomline, this story (this bill)  just highlights the growing angst western citizens have about what they see as a flood of needy and often unwilling or unable to assimilate third world immigrants to their neighborhoods.  The Canadian Council, by the way, is just one more NGO political activist group.

From the Ottawa Citizen:

One worlders always point to the “international legal obligations.”  But what about a country’s right to protect its sovereignty?

This week, the Conservatives made good on one of their election promises: to bring back Bill C-49, and to bring it back virtually unchanged.

The Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada’s Immigration System Act was first introduced in October, but didn’t make it to second reading before Parliament was dissolved for the spring election. At the time, what Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney called “strong but fair” remedies to reduce the number of people landing on Canada’s shores to claim refugee status were harshly criticized by opposition MPs and refugee advocates, who denounced the bill as an attack on refugee rights.

In particular, critics say the bill -now known as C-4 -contravenes the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Canada’s obligations under the UN Convention on Refugees.

“It’s difficult to understand why the government would be proposing to bring this legislation back without change when it has been so widely condemned by legal experts as clearly in violation of our Charter and clearly in violation of international standards of human rights,” says Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees. “There’s no ambiguity about this. It does not conform to our international legal obligations.”

Preventing abuse of a generous immigration system!

“Canadians gave us a strong mandate to prevent the abuse of our generous immigration system,” Kenney said on re-introducing the bill Thursday. “Canadians have told us this abuse of our generosity is a real problem that must be stopped.”

Refugee advocates say it goes too far, and that the detention without judicial review for a year contravenes the Charter right -which applies to refugee claimants -to see a judge within 24 hours.

“The government describes it as being anti-smuggler, but the people who would suffer most are the refugees,” says Dench. “They would be detained for up to a year, and even those accepted as refugees would be held in suspended animation for five years without any right to travel, to reunify with family or get on with their lives.”  [In fact, the prospect of detention might well discourage the whole business of human smuggling—ed]

We are being taken for a ride and the refugee lobby is the driver!

Those objections [go back to the story, here, for those] don’t hold water with immigration system critics such as Martin Collacott, a former ambassador to Sri Lanka and one of the principals behind the new Centre for Immigration Policy Reform. Collacott sees Bill C-4 as a balanced effort to get at a real problem, and he’d like to see more of it.

“The problem is the people who use the services of smugglers are doing an end-run on the Canadian immigration system,” says Collacott. “We’re being taken for a ride and we’ve allowed it to happen because of a fairly active refugee lobby that argues we should keep our doors wide open.”

Dench says Canada’s commitment to refugee protection seems to be waning.

Readers, especially Canadian readers, check out the Centre for Immigration Policy Reform here.  Be sure to see this recent commentary:

A mawkish view of immigration overlooks the facts
By Patrick Grady and Herbert Grubel, Vancouver Sun
June 6, 2011

Related story perhaps:   According to CBC News, here, the City of Ottawa is putting in place a new plan to try to integrate immigrants (they know they have a problem!).

For more on refugee problems in Canada, visit our category on Canada, here, where we have 68 posts archived.