Refugee changes belie Trudeau’s vow to protect women
This week, Vancouver hosted 6,000 leaders, hailing from more than 150 countries, gathering to discuss strategies, aimed at advancing fundamental human rights for women. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in attendance.
When announcing the conference, Trudeau said, “Prioritizing the health, rights, and well-being of girls and women is not optional, but in fact, foundational to drive change and progress for all, and this is reflected in our new feminist foreign policy.”
His new budget, however, does not reflect this sentiment.
The federal budget introduced in April includes an amendment to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, a provision hidden in a 392-page omnibus bill. The provision disqualifies refugee claimants from an independent hearing before the Immigration and Refugee Board, if they have initiated claims in certain countries, including the United States. These claimants can include women who have experienced gender-based violence.
How can Prime Minister Trudeau plan to advance human rights protections for women while simultaneously creating further barriers to safety for female refugees?
Women refugees already occupy a precarious position in the global community. Gender-based persecution is the No. 1 reason female refugee claimants seek asylum in Canada. About half of these women flee to escape domestic violence when they are unable to find protection within their home country.
The Barbra Schlifer Clinic works with women in similar positions, daily. Women who come to Canada hoping to find the aid and resources they need, instead find systemic barriers and a hostile legislature. While the Liberal government touts policies of open borders and inclusivity, its legislative acts are anything but.
The proposed changes for asylum seekers mean any asylum claimant who has previously attempted to seek protection within the United States will be denied a full and independent hearing. Instead, a government official will now review their claims.
These changes severely limit the individual’s ability to advance their claims, call witnesses and challenge government evidence. This creates a risk of deportation for both women and children who have faced gender-based violence in their home countries, women and children who risk returning to the same peril. Many Central American women who are seeking protection from domestic violence travel by land through the United States to reach Canada. After arriving in the United States, many must file a U.S. refugee claim or face immediate deportation home.
But, their U.S. refugee claims are ill-fated. The Trump administration’s policies ignore domestic violence as valid grounds for an asylum claim. Canada, in contrast, has long recognized a woman’s right to seek asylum based on domestic violence if her home country fails to protect her.
If the prime minister is sincere in his commitment to the rights of women, he must abandon the harmful restrictions of the rights of refugees that his government is attempting to pass into law. He must recommit to a refugee system that ensures the fair and independent determination of every asylum seeker's claim.