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

Five murals to be painted in Terrace this summer

Artists paint together in celebration of the Skeena Salmon Art Festival

City purchases Terrace Bowling Lanes

The business will stay open for one last season

Terrace RCMP trying to reunite owners with stolen goods

Two men arrested in connection with thefts

Terrace Minor Softball closes season with wins

Teams with be competing in nationals in Saskatoon

Feds lowered poverty line, reducing the number of seniors in need: documents

Liberals introduced a poverty line that was below the prior low-income cutoff

After B.C. dad’s death, Technical Safety BC wants changes to trampoline park rules

Jay Greenwood, 46, did ‘a series of acrobatic manoeuvres prior to a fall that caused serious injury and cardiac arrest’

$900M settlement reached in class action on sexual misconduct in Canadian military

After facing criticism, the government moved to begin settlement proceedings in early 2018

Tax take stays ahead of increased B.C. government spending

Tax revenue $2.1 billion higher than budget in 2018-19

Two toddler siblings found drowned on First Nation in Alberta

The siblings were found drowned on their family’s property, according to RCMP

Chiefs honour Indigenous leader wrongfully hanged in B.C. 154 years ago today

Chief Joe Alphonse says they want his remains returned to his homeland in B.C.’s Cariboo region

Rare white ravens spotted again on Vancouver Island

Nature photographer Mike Yip said mysterious birds back in Coombs area

B.C. government seeks advice on reviving Interior forest industry

Public website opens as meetings start with community leaders

Psychics, drones being used to search for missing Chilliwack woman with dementia

Drones, psychics, dogs and more have been employed to help find Grace Baranyk, 86

Most Read