CCLA Reacts To Minister Jason Kenney's Proposed Amendments To Bill C-31
TORONTO - While the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) welcomes the Minister of Immigration's announcement that the Government is proposing amendments to Bill C-31, the Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act, CCLA believes the bill is still deeply flawed and unconstitutional.
Although there is some relief in knowing that these proposed amendments will ensure that people seeking refuge in Canada will not be subjected to 12 month detention without review, innocent people may still face 6 months of unnecessary (and expensive) detention. This is but one of the grave concerns CCLA has with the bill, which will harm and endanger refugees and asylum seekers.
For many months, CCLA has been working alongside numerous individuals, experts and organizations in the areas of human rights, refugee rights, health, law, and more, to raise awareness about the dangers of Bill C-31. One of the most egregious provisions in the Bill was the mandatory warrantless, automatic, unreviewable one-year detention for all persons aged 16 or older for groups of people "designated" at the discretion of the Minister.
While it is encouraging to see the government pull back on this provision, and respond to the critiques of people in Canada, CCLA believes that the proposed amendments still leave Bill C-31 deeply flawed, unconstitutional and unethical:
Mandatory group detention, which is unethical and unconstitutional, would remain part of the bill.
The new proposed detention reviews - in particular the 6 month wait after an initial review - are not an acceptable standard, and in practice may leave innocent people languishing in jail if they are unable to prove their identity within the first 14 days of their arrival.
The additional "safeguard" giving the Minister discretion to release individuals from detention is completely duplicative - the Minister is already granted broad discretion to release individuals under the bill.
Bill C-31 continues to be an irrational and expensive response to human smuggling. The detention provisions in the bill do not target human smugglers, as they require no wrongdoing, or even suspicion of wrongdoing on the part of the people who will be jailed. And in any event, desperate people escaping danger will continue to flee, even if they may be mistreated or unfairly jailed when they reach Canada.
The government has not addressed the serious critiques about the bill's refugee claim process, including excessively short timeframes for certain categories of asylum seekers to tell their stories and prove their cases, with no right of appeal. Individuals who cannot manage to find representation, garner medical and psychiatric evidence, as well as needed proof from their country of origin, would be sent back to those places where their lives may be in danger. Thus an inadequate process could return Canada to the dark days of our history, when we sent refugees back to a danger of persecution.
Bill C-31 continues to discriminate against different groups of refugees, including a Minister-created category of "designated" foreign nationals. Such individuals who are able to prove their claims as credible, and are accepted as refugees, would continue to suffer discrimination, including the provision that they could not, for over 5 years, be reunited with spouses or children they may have had to leave behind.
The Minister's few proposed amendments to this large and complex bill do not address numerous other serious flaws that were brought to the attention of the committee in its hearings. See, for example, CCLA's concerns in our submissions to the Parliamentary Committee on Bill C-31.