Facing mounting criticism, PM Justin Trudeau came out defending controversial changes to asylum laws included in an omnibus budget bill tabled this week, saying his government wants to ensure Canada’s refugee system is fair for everyone.
The changes would prevent asylum seekers from making refugee claims in Canada if they have made similar claims in certain other countries, including the United States, a move Border Security Minister Bill Blair says is aimed at preventing “asylum-shopping.”
Trudeau said Wednesday that Canada has been seeing larger numbers of refugee claims because of global instability. Sustaining Canadians’ confidence in the country’s asylum system means ensuring those who enter Canada do so according to the law, he said.
The provision is based on the belief that Canada’s refugee system is similar enough to that of the U.S. that anyone rejected there is likely to be rejected here as well.
Under Canada’s “Safe Third Country Agreement” with the U.S., would-be refugees who arrive at official border crossings from the United States and try to claim asylum will be turned back to the U.S. But the agreement doesn’t apply to people already on Canadian soil when they make their claims.
This loophole has been exploited by over 40,000 asylum-seekers who’ve crossed into the country to make asylum claims since early 2017.
Under the new provisions introduced Monday, asylum-seekers deemed ineligible to make claims in Canada will not necessarily be deported to their homelands. They will still undergo pre-removal risk assessments to determine if it is safe to send them back to their countries of origin.
But this takes away their legal right to have their refugee claims heard by an independent tribunal or a court — something that could be subject to a Charter challenge.
A 1985 Supreme Court ruling, known as the Singh decision after the group of Sikh refugee claimants involved in the case, ruled that asylum-seekers have the right to full oral hearings of their refugee claims. The decision is considered one of the most significant in Canadian refugee law and was instrumental in the formation of the Immigration and Refugee Board — the arm’s-length agency that hears refugee claims in Canada.
With summer coming and with it are expected more so-called asylum seekers, many of them flying in from other parts of the world and walking over into Canada to claim asylum. Others who’ve lived illegally in the US for years after having their asylum claims there rejected find no reason not to come up to Canada and begin that long-drawn out asylum process once again. Unless the frauds are weeded out, genuine asylum seekers will remain unseen and forgotten in tent cities and refugee camps around the world. -CINEWS