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

Bear sightings historically rare in Langford: City staff

51 bear complaints or sightings in last year

Mental health walk/run aims to outpace depression

Walk increased to 5k, run to 10k

Autism support dog helps Langford boy hold his head high

Family shares story for Autism Awareness Month

Give your immunity a boost for National Immunization Awareness Week

Immunize Canada calls on Canadians to stay up to date with their immunizations

Families hop over to Easter celebrations at Millstream Village

Annual Easter Eggstravaganza had lineups before 11 a.m.

WATCH: Movie star and PACE alum Calum Worthy talks musical theatre and his career

“American Vandal” and “Austin and Ally” actor has been returning to the program for over 20 years

POLL: How often does your family use BC Ferries?

Navigating the lineups for BC Ferries is a way of life for… Continue reading

Crime Stoppers most wanted for Greater Victoria for the week of April 16

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

B.C. RCMP receive application for Police Cat Services

RCMP announced the launch of the Police Cat Services unit as an April fools joke

Kirkland Signature veggie burgers recalled due to possible metal fragments

Recalled products came in 1.7 kg packages with a best before date of Apr. 23, 2019

Parents of 13 who tortured children get life after hearing victims

One of their daughters fled their home and pleaded for help to a 911 operator

Flooding, climate change force Quebecers to rethink relationship with water

Compensation for victims of recurring floods limit to 50% of a home’s value, or a maximum of $100,000

Storms blast South, where tornadoes threaten several states

9.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia at a moderate risk of severe weather

Private cargo ship brings Easter feast to the space station

There are three Americans two Russians and one Canadian living on the space station

Most Read