Civil rights and legal orgs urge Trudeau to drop asylum-eligibility changes

The groups are also upset that these measures were buried in a nearly 400-page omnibus budget bill

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau adjusts his tie as he leaves a cabinet meeting on route to vote in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 9, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

A group of civil-society and legal organizations is asking Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to withdraw changes to asylum laws included in a Liberal budget bill tabled this week, calling them harsh and unnecessary.

Amnesty International, the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, the Canadian and B.C. civil-liberties associations and the Canadian Council for Refugees have written a joint letter to Trudeau saying the proposed legal changes would strip crucial and hard-won human-rights protections from vulnerable refugees.

“These cases involve incredibly high stakes for the claimants, including questions of persecution and torture, of being able to live life freely in accordance with one’s identity and culture with protection for fundamental human rights and even questions of life and death,” states the letter. “That is why Canada has long ensured that refugee claims are determined in a fair hearing before an independent tribunal.”

The changes would prevent asylum-seekers from making refugee claims in Canada if they have made similar claims in certain other countries, namely the United States — a move Border Security Minister Bill Blair says is aimed at preventing “asylum-shopping.”

READ MORE: Trudeau defends changes to asylum laws that have refugee workers alarmed

Refugee advocates and lawyers have said these changes would have a devastating impact on people seeking asylum in Canada because it would remove their ability to plead their cases in full oral hearings before the Immigration and Refugee Board.

The letter to Trudeau echoes these concerns, calling Blair’s justification for the changes “simplistic and inaccurate” and ”offensive.”

“We know from our collective experience that there are a wide range of legitimate reasons why refugee claimants may seek Canada’s protection after having filed a claim elsewhere. They must be given the opportunity to do so,” it says.

The groups are also upset that these measures were buried in a nearly 400-page omnibus budget bill, calling that an undemocratic move that prevents parliamentarians from being able to fully consider the effects and potential unforeseen consequences these measures could have on the refugee system.

They urge Trudeau to withdraw the proposed refugee eligibility changes, which they say would likely result in legal challenges.

Since 2017, over 41,000 asylum-seekers have arrived in Canada via the Canada-U.S. border at unofficial entry points. Blair’s office says the proposed legal changes are meant to deter these “irregular” migrants and maintain the integrity of Canada’s asylum system.

Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

People’s Party of Canada plan to have a candidate in the North Island-Powell River riding

Elections Canada formally recognized the North Island—Powell River PPC Association

NVIATS takes over NIEFS space in Thunderbird Mall

“We were approached by NIEFS, they’re going to be downsizing”

Port Hardy Reigns compete in Nanaimo at Island Championships

“We are very fortunate to have this opportunity for our youth in Port Hardy”

Derina Harvey Band – Heartfelt, Energetic, Celtic rock comes to Port Hardy

Front-woman Derina Harvey leads this Celtic-rock act, who offer an authentic east-coast experience.

OPINION: Urgent care room will cost lives

“Seniors, of any demographic, are the most vulnerable to the loss of emergency care.”

VIDEO: Driver in bizarre hit-and-run at B.C. car dealership turns herself in

Police believe alcohol was a factor in incident causing estimated $15,000 in damages

Two in critical condition, several still in hospital after Langley deck collapse

Close relative Satwant Garcha makes daily trips to visit those injured at the wedding

Allegedly intoxicated man arrested after 3 paramedics attacked at Kamloops hospital

Paramedics had transported the man to Royal Inlands Hospital for medical treatment

Canadian privacy watchdogs find major shortcomings in Facebook probe

The probe followed reports that Facebook had let an outside organization use an app to access users’ personal info

Busy day for passengers on BC Ferries

First two sailings from Tsawwassen to Swartz Bay full Thursday morning

B.C., Ottawa talk 50/50 split on abandoned bus-route service

B.C. has paid $2 million on a bus service for the northern part of the province

‘B.C. cannot wait for action’: Top doctor urges province to decriminalize illicit drugs

Dr. Bonnie Henry says current approach in ‘war on drugs’ has criminalized and stigmatized drug users

B.C. woman, 76, challenges alcohol-screening laws after failing to give breath sample

Norma McLeod was unable to provide a sample because of her medical conditions

New report on 2017 wildfires calls for better coordination with B.C. First Nations

Tsilhqot’in National Government documents 2017 disaster and lists 33 calls to action

Most Read