Canada’s federal conservative government has been one of the most regressive in terms of its lack of fairness and exclusionary immigration policies. Stakeholders assert that a system of immigration enforcement and control has taken hold in Canada with emphasis being placed on the benefits of immigration purely from an economic benefit to Canada.
Many believe the arrival of the MV Sun Sea in 2010 to be the catalyst for the profound transformation of the Canadian refugee system under the Conservative government. Following the arrival of the 492 Tamil women, children and men aboard the MV Sun Sea in August 2010, Canadian politicians rushed to condemn the asylum seekers as terrorists, and took the unprecedented step of imprisoning them upon arrival.
In the following two years, the federal government passed wide-ranging legislation to make it harder for refugees to remain in Canada, focusing on preventing refugees from arriving in Canada, and making it more difficult for them to make claims, leaving them in danger of deportation. For instance, refugees now only have 45 days to prove they are in need of protection, down from six months previously.
Asylum seekers in Canada now face a discriminatory two-tier system, with refugees designated as “irregular arrivals” facing mandatory and indefinite incarceration. Additionally, the federal government has been increasingly chipping away at the rights of legitimate refugees, such as cutting health care rights.
As further evidence of increased hostile policies towards immigrants, critics point to the fact that the majority of economic migrants arriving in Canada arrive through migrant worker programs that grant temporary status, rather than avenues that grant permanent residence.
Workers in the low-wage TFW Program often have no access to unionization or guaranteed access to social services, despite having payed into them. And the government has been shutting down avenues that grant permanent residency to migrants.
The recent decline in the number of family-class immigrants and accepted refugees, as well as the diminishing rights of immigrant families and naturalized citizens, all point to an anti-immigration stand on the part of the current government.
Legal challenges have been filed at the Federal Court of Canada against several government immigration policies, such as second-class citizenship, cuts to refugee healthcare, the ban on niqabs at citizenship ceremonies, and the two-tier refugee system which has led to the indefinite detention of many migrants. With several court decisions going against the government, the federal government’s unconstitutional and punitive agenda against migrants and refugees has been exposed.
And with opposition parties putting forward genuine alternatives to the Conservative government’s immigration policies, the upcoming general elections may provide Canada the opportunity to right the wrongs of the past few years.