A controversial federal bill has refugees and immigrants worried they will be subject them to arbitrary profiling, detentions and deportations.
Protesters gathered yesterday downtown at Georgia Street and Hamilton Street to rally in opposition.
“Foreign nationals could be detained for up to a year without any review,” said lawyer Peter Edelmann, who represents those opposing the bill.
“You wouldn’t be reunited with your family members and you wouldn’t be able to apply for permanent residence.”
Bill C-31 would give Immigration Canada the power to enforce jail time for asylum seekers, deny permanent residency and expel refugees from Canada, according to migrant and refugee rights activists.
“Canadians take great pride in the generosity and compassion of our immigration and refugee programs. But [Canada] has no tolerance for those who abuse our generosity and seek to take unfair advantage of our country,” said Immigration Minister Jason Kenney in a press release.
Edelmann — who was at the protest — said the bill would have devastating effects on refugees and foreign nationals already present in Canada.
“There’s no reason for this bill to be slammed through parliament as quickly as the government is intending. They want to pass this through parliament before June 29th,” Edelmann said.
Protester Will Molina is outraged with the proposal of the new bill.
“The government is taking advantage of its majority to push its laws as fast as it can,” said Molina.
As refugees arrive in Canada, Bill C-31 implements a required hearing within 30 to 45 days.
“That’s simply not enough time for somebody who is traumatized or someone who needs to gather documents from a foreign country, have them translated and try and present them to the board,” said Edelmann.
Molina said becoming a refugee is not a decision anyone wishes to undertake.
“No one chooses to be a refugee, but if your life is at stake you’re going to flee no matter what.”
Former chairman of the Immigration and Refugee Board Peter Showler said in an interview with rabble.ca that Bill C-31 is “a bill that violates the Canadian Charter of Rights, international law and, frankly, common sense as well.”
“We actually do believe that it is necessary to reform Canada’s refugee system but it’s important to do it in a way that has features that are fast, fair and effective. None of these features are contained in Bill C-31,” said Showler.
Reported by Ross Armour and Sascha Porteous