by Syed Hussan
A new immigration Bill, C-31, proposed in Parliament on Thursday, February 16, will take out significant sections of the refugee system and give immigration enforcement and police increased powers to arrest non-citizens.
Bill C-31 rolls in provisions from Bill C-49 and Bill C-4, the so-called human smuggling bill which allows immigration officers to designate people arriving in Canada and applying for refugee status as ‘irregular arrivals’. This can be any 2 or more claimants from any country.
Once designated as ‘irregular arrivals’, asylum seekers must be put in prison, without a warrant, and without a review process. They have no access to an appeal process, an assessment of risk on deportation, ability to apply for status on humanitarian grounds. Even, if these asylum seekers get refugee status, they cannot apply for permanent residence or sponsorship for five years during which time their refugee status could be arbitrarily revoked.
Separately, the Immigration Minister can deem any country, ‘safe’. These will likely be countries that Canada has trade relations with, countries like Hungary, Colombia and Mexico. Once deemed safe, asylum seekers from these countries will essentially be denied most processes, and unable to gain adequate legal representation or the right of appeal.
Bill C-31 also gives Immigration Canada the power to arrest any non-citizen without due process and hold them until they decide to revoke their citizenship and deport them, and all non-citizens, including tourists, study and work permit holders and permanent residents, can be forced to submit biometric data, including retina scans and DNA scans.
Under Bill C-31, the government can revoke the citizenship of people who have been granted refugee status. Once they have done so, even if they have already been granted permanent residency, their status can be revoked. In doing so, the entire Refugee system has been made temporary so that even gaining permanent residency cannot ensure continued status in the country.
The potential changes introduced by Bill C-31 are part of a series of drastic changes to Canada’s immigration system that are making the entire system exclusionary.
On January 18, Canada launched a “Parent and Grandparent Super Visa” and announced that 25,000 parents and grandparents will gain permanent residency in 2012, a 60% increase from 2010.
While some immigrants rejoiced, hoping that this would finally mean reuniting with family members separated for decades, a closer reading tells a different story.
The Parent & Grandparent Supervisa is a 10 year visa, under which elderly family members of immigrants can come live in the country for two years at a time to visit their children and grandchildren.
To get the Supervisa, sponsors must meet minimum income requirements and pay for medical bills of the visiting family members who will not be allowed to access Canadian healthcare. What used to be a permanent immigration system, where immigrants could sponsor their parents and grandparents to come in to the country and get citizenship, has been replaced by a temporary immigration system where parents can visit, but not stay.
The current backlog of parents and grandparents waiting to be processed is 165,000 – allowing in 25,000 people barely makes a dent in this long line of separated families. Also, at the same time as the Supervisa was introduced and the record number of acceptance numbers announced, a 2 year ban on all new applications was placed. In other words, right now, no one can apply to sponsor their families in to Canada. Whether the ban will actually be lifted is a question only time can answer.
In addition to the limited and temporary Supervisas, the Canadian government has increased restrictions on the spousal sponsorship system – the other end of the family reunification part of the immigration system.
Until recently, a Canadian citizen who married a non-citizen, could sponsor their spouse and ensure that they get full citizenship. Not any longer.
Under regulations titled ‘Conditional-Permanent Residency’, if a couple has known each other for less than two years, then the non-citizen spouse gets conditional citizenship for 2 years. After the 2 years, Citizenship and Immigration Canada will investigate the relationship and then decide if the relationship is genuine and if full citizenship can be granted.
This regulation puts the non-citizen spouse in a position where leaving an abusive marriage is a matter of giving up citizenship.
As the total number of permanent residents in Canada as a percentage of the total population drops each year, the number of temporary migrants continues to grow. This is not just in the case of increased temporary workers but rather temporary visas in the refugee and family reunification system.
It is essential that immigrants, refugees, and those who believe in an immigration system that prioritizes family reunification and humanitarianism join forces before it is too late. Visit nooneisillegal.org to see how you can stop this Bill.