Church de­mands with­drawal of ret­ro­grade refugee bill

Stanstead Journal - - FROM PAGE ONE - Qu/bec

Canada’sshame­ful re­fusal to of­fer asy­lum to Jews flee­ing Nazi Ger­many aboard the SS St. Louis in 1939 would have been per­fectly pos­si­ble un­der the pro­vi­sions of a new refugee bill the Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment wants to push through by June 29. The Cana­dian As­so­ci­a­tion of Refugee Lawyers ex­plains that un­der the pro­posed Bill C-31, “The SS St. Louis was pi­loted by hu­man smug­glers in­tent on abus­ing the Cana­dian im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem. The pas­sen­gers are part of a ‘hu­man smug­gling event’ and will be au­to­mat­i­cally de­tained for one year. If their refugee claims are re­jected, they will be de­ported back to Ger­many with no chance to ap­peal the neg­a­tive decision.” That’s among sev­eral rea­sons the Right Rev­erend Den­nis Drainville, Angli­can Bishop of Que­bec, has added his voice to the cho­rus of op­po­nents call­ing for the pro­posed leg­is­la­tion’s with­drawal. Bill C-31 gives ar­riv­ing refugees just 15 days to prove their claims, and 15 days to ap­peal a re­fusal. It re­moves an ex­pert, in­de­pen­dent ad­vi­sory body from the process for des­ig­nat­ing cer­tain coun­tries as “safe,” thus re­mov­ing safe­guards against coun­tries be­ing des­ig­nated on the ba­sis of po­lit­i­cal, trade and other con­sid­er­a­tions. The bill per­mits the min­is­ter of cit­i­zen­ship and im­mi­gra­tion to seek to re­voke an in­di­vid­ual’s refugee sta­tus and de­port them at any time up un­til they gain cit­i­zen­ship. A per­son’s per­ma­nent res­i­dence could be re­voked should the cir­cum­stances in their home coun­try change or should they re­turn home for any rea­son, in­clud­ing to see a sick par­ent or to look for a lost child. This last pro­vi­sion will ap­ply equally to those who were rec­og­nized as refugees in Canada and those who were pro­cessed over­seas when spon­sored by church groups such as the Dio­cese of Que­bec’s Noella Project. “The con­cen­tra­tion of wide-reach­ing and vaguely de­fined pow­ers in a po­lit­i­cal min­is­ter, with no mech­a­nisms of ju­di­cial ac­count­abil­ity, dis­plays a dan­ger­ous in­cli­na­tion away from the rule of law and prin­ci­ples of re­spon­si­ble and demo­cratic gov­er­nance,” said Bishop Drainville, him­self a for­mer mem­ber of the On­tario leg­is­la­ture. “The dio­cese is deeply con­cerned that ma­jor por­tions of this law fail to com­ply with the Char­ter of Rights and Free­doms and with in­ter­na­tional law.” Over re­cent decades the Cana­dian churches have been in the fore­front of ef­forts to en­sure that Canada of­fers pro­tec­tion to refugees, through refugee spon­sor­ship, through le­gal ac­tion, and through calls on the gov­ern­ment for the fair, just and hu­mane treat­ment of those who ar­rive here seek­ing asy­lum. The Dio­cese of Que­bec sup­ports an im­mi­gra­tion sys­tem that is fair, in­de­pen­dent of po­lit­i­cal con­sid­er­a­tions, and af­ford­able. Bill C-31, how­ever, is un­con­sti­tu­tional, un­der­mines our hu­man­i­tar­ian tra­di­tions, and vi­o­lates our in­ter­na­tional obli­ga­tions. With Bill-31, Canada would be turn­ing its back on its tra­di­tion of wel­com­ing the stranger. As Chris­tians who share this tra­di­tion, we de­mand that Bill C-31 be with­drawn at once.

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