|Members of the Justice for Refugees and Immigrants Coalition at a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa|
A coalition of human rights advocates and refugee lawyers have told Jason Kenney, minister of citizenship, immigration and multiculturalism, that he must change Bill C-31.
At a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, five prominent speakers from Amnesty International, the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the Canadian Council for Refugees, outlined what they say are serious flaws in the bill and why it must be withdrawn or defeated at second reading in the House of Commons.
"Among the many troubling provisions in Bill C-31 is the power given to the minister of immigration to designate a list of countries of origin that are supposedly safe," said Alex Neve of Amnesty International Canada.
Mr. Neve believes that people who apply for refugee status in Canada from a so-called safe country will likely be turned down because the government believes they do not face a threat from their own country.
"Introducing the safe countries of origin concept into the Canadian refugee system is unfair and problematic for so many reasons," said Mr. Neve.
"There is no reliable and objective way to distinguish safe and unsafe countries. Human rights violations occur in virtually all countries around the world," Mr. Neve added.
Bill C-31 will also allow the minister to detain refugees for up to 12 months, said Nathalie Des Rosiers of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, at a cost to taxpayers reaching $70,000 per person, per year.
Bill C-31 (Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act) was introduced in Parliament last month.
According to the government, it will provide faster protection to those who genuinely need refuge in Canada and faster removal for those who do not.
“Canadians take great pride in the generosity and compassion of our immigration and refugee programs," said Mr. Kenney in a press release. "But they have no tolerance for those who abuse our generosity and seek to take unfair advantage of our country.”
There are approximately 10.5 million refugees in the world, according to Peter Showler of the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers. Canada receives about 25,000 refugee claims a year and about 40 per cent of them are accepted.