Canada’s Conservative majority government has succeeded in passing its new refugee legislation, despite heavy criticisms from opposition members.
“We made a key election commitment to bring in these new legislative tools to combat human-smuggling criminals who want to treat Canada like a doormat,” said Immigration Minister Jason Kenney. “This bill will also further strengthen our reforms of Canada’s asylum system to make sure that it’s fast and fair and will allow for us to improve immigration-security screening significantly through legislative authority for biometric visa collection.”
One of the most controversial elements of Bill C-31 is the powers it grants to the Immigration Minister to pre-determine which countries are “safe” and which are not. Anyone from such declared “safe” nations who seeks asylum in Canada would have their application fast-tracked and no right to appeal.
This particular regulation is designed to address a recent spike in refugee claims originating from European countries, particularly Hungary’s Roma population.
Other regulations included in the bill are harsher penalties for human traffickers and more constraints placed upon “irregular arrivals” such as those coming to Canada via ship in large numbers.
However, critics say that the changes concentrate too much power into the hands of the Immigration Minister, and also punish the most vulnerable – the refugees – rather than the human smugglers. Critics in opposition parties are also concerned about the timing of the new legislation, saying that the government is taking advantage of its majority status to rescind on earlier agreements with other political parties.
Source: National Post