Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act earning rave reviews

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Ottawa, February 22, 2012

Don Davies, NDP Immigration Critic and MP for Vancouver –Kingsway):

CHML-AM Hamilton The Matt Holmes Show, February 16, 2012

Well, I think what we need to do is build a system that has a fast and fair determination process. And that’s something that I’ll give Minister Kenney credit for. I do think that’s what his intention has been all along. And we all want to work towards that. We don’t want endless dragging on of this stuff because refugees, when they come here, you know, they do qualify for basic sustenance…it is at the cost of the Canadian taxpayer.

So we do have an interest in making sure there’s a quick determination that’s correct and fair and get these people into our communities, working and being productive taxpaying members of our society if they’re bona fide refugees.

We want a fast, fair system where we can give a sanctuary to people who need it quickly and we can weed out the people who don’t have valid claims, get them through a fair process. And if they’re not valid at the end of the day, deport them out of Canada swiftly.

Richard Kurland, Immigration Lawyer:

CTV News Channel, February 16, 2012

He’s a loophole closer. Finally someone recognized that the open wallet approach of the past, offering free education, free medicare, and a welfare check to anyone who touched Canadian soil making a refugee claim was not the right thing to do. So I’m glad to see today that finally, after several years, someone has the political courage to take the political risk of saying, if you’re from a European country and you can land in London or Paris or Berlin, fill out paperwork, and legally live there, work there, pay taxes there, you shouldn’t be allowed to make a refugee claim in Canada. Buttress that with this reality check. Over 90 percent, and in some years 95 percent, of the target group, the Roma claimants, didn’t even show up for their oral hearings. They rode on the taxpayer.

We were just taken for a ride by a lot of people for a long time. Today that loophole is dead, and I really hope the word gets out to the smuggler community and back to source countries to not try it.

So, still, the door remains open to genuine refugees like the minister has designed. We’re going to hear every case in an oral hearing. It will be a lot faster, and that way it’s a safety net. We can catch the genuine fear of persecution in those two cases out of 100 where Canada’s asylum doors will wrap warmly around them and afford protection, deserving protection.

Given that there is mobility between European states to legally live somewhere else, how can you knock on Canada’s generous refugee door when you have that easy alternative? So if you’re serious, you move, for temporarily. I still don’t get it.

Julie Taub, Immigration Lawyer:

Radio Canada International, February 17, 2012

I’m an immigration and refugee lawyer in Ottawa, and a former member of the Immigration and Refugee Board. I can tell you from theory and practice that the current refugee system is very flawed, and cumbersome, and definitely needs an overhaul. It takes up to two years to have a claimant have his hearing. And there are far too many bogus claims that clog up the system, and use very expensive resources at a cost to Canadian taxpayers.

I also like the fact that he is going to fast-track these claims, so they do not clog up the refugee system for genuine claimants. I have clients who’ve been waiting since 2009, early 2010 to have their hearing, and I represent many claimants from, let’s say Africa, the Mid East countries, who base their claim on gender violence or Christian persecution in certain Middle East countries, and they have to wait, because the system is so clogged up with what I consider to be unfounded claims from citizens of safe country of origin. 

CBC Radio, February 17, 2012

Now regarding the safe countries of origin, I don’t think you need a committee of experts. Any person, any reasonable Canadian on the street could come up with the list, something like the following: the United States, countries in the European Union, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand, the Scandinavian countries that aren’t in the EU.

Now those Europeans who do not feel safe in their countries such as the Roma in the Czech Republic or Hungary, they do have one of 26 other countries where they can go.  So the safe countries of origin, they are quite logical.

I have absolutely no qualms about the minister preparing such a list because, as I said, a reasonable common person in the streets can prepare such a list. And frankly, I don’t think there are too many genuine refugees coming in from Sweden, or Finland, or the United States.

Martin Collacott, Centre for Immigration Policy Reform:

CTV National Affairs, February 17, 2012

It’s [this bill] absolutely necessary.  I think on pure refugee grounds it’s perfectly sound and reasonable.  I think this can be totally justified on fair, reasonable and balanced refugee principles.

Stéphane Handfield, immigration lawyer

CHMP-FM Radio Montréal, February 17, 2012

It’s true that current processing times are excessive in some cases. So I would really like to hear that processing times will be reduced. I think that would be excellent news. It would be a great thing for our clients—and for refugee claimants in general, who will finally know their fate within a reasonable time.

SRC’s La 1ère Chaìne, February 16, 2012

What I mean to say is that of course no one disagrees. As an immigration lawyer, I hope that processing times will be much shorter for our clients’ sake.

Andrew Wlodyka, former Immigration and Refugee Board Manager:

CKNW-AM Vancouver Radio, February 17, 2012

I frankly don’t find anything wrong with that in the sense that the Minister’s accountable to the public. If he makes a bad job of choosing which countries there’s always the ballot box to deal with it as opposed to sort of faceless experts deciding these kinds of questions who are possibly not really accountable to anyone. So I don’t really have a problem with the Minister. There is political accountability in the end.

Julie Chamagne, Executive Director, Halifax Refugee Clinic:

CBC Radio Halifax, February 17, 2012

We don’t want people coming here and taking advantage of Canada’s immigration rules. And you know, that does hurt the legitimate claims and that’s what Kenney is saying.

Globe and Mail Editorial

Friday, February 17, 2012

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney’s refugee reforms, aimed at making the process more efficient and decisive, are generally good. If implemented, they will improve an unwieldy asylum program.

The legislation rightly focuses on weeding out claimants who are not genuine, and stemming the flow of asylum seekers from countries such as Mexico and Hungary that are democracies with respect for basic rights and freedoms.

Fast-tracking refugee claims from these countries, and ensuring failed claimants are promptly deported, is an excellent way to ensure Canada does not become a magnet for abuse. The bill will also implement biometric identification, such as fingerprints and photos, for people who apply for visitor’s visas. This welcome change will guard against the use of false identities.

Montreal Gazette Editorial “Toward a better refugee-determination system”

February 21, 2012

Canada has a long-standing and well-deserved reputation as a place of refuge for people fleeing persecution in their homelands. At the same time, however, it has also gained repute as an easy mark for the unscrupulous who fraudulently use our generous refugee determination system as a way to get into Canada without submitting to standard immigration requirements and procedures.

The bill aims to dissuade refugee claimants coming from what the government classifies as “safe” countries – notably European Union member states, from which there has lately been an uptick in refugee claimants. Safe countries, by the government’s definition, are ones with democratic political systems, solid human-rights records and independent judiciaries. The legislation also proposes harsher penalties for those who engage in human smuggling, as well as for asylum-seekers who pay smuggling syndicates to get them to Canadian shores. And it allows for the collection of biometric data – fingerprints and digital photos – of people entering Canada on a visitor visa, a work permit or a study visa. Both of these measures are advisable. Human smuggling is an odious enterprise that should be severely punished. And while the smugglers’ clients are perhaps desperate people in many cases, they are nevertheless participants in an illegal activity that should be strongly discouraged.

The collection of biometric information is a sensible security precaution that will be a valuable tool in preventing people from slipping into the country with false identities.

Shielding the refugee system from false claimants is not only in the best interest of Canadians, on whom they are a financial burden, but also of legitimate applicants who stand to lose out if bogus claimants cast the system as a whole into disrepute. 

Establishing a system that is both efficient and fairly balanced is a daunting challenge, but it is one that should be tackled realistically and at the same time in a spirit of generosity that should stand as a Canadian hallmark.

Edmonton Journal Editorial “Good moves on refugees”

February 17, 2012

Given the financial stress placed on our system by those numbers, there has to be a more efficient, cost-effective means of weeding out the bogus claimants from Europe and elsewhere. Simply put, we cannot continue to give everyone the benefit of the doubt when it costs that much money and taxes our social systems unduly to do so.

It is a tough, no-nonsense document that speeds up the review process and takes much of the financial burden off the Canadian taxpayer – and that aspect of Bill C-31 is worth supporting.

Toronto Star Editorial

February 21, 2012

Kenney’s latest reform plan would reduce the current backlog of 42,000 refugee claims; cut the processing time for asylum seekers from “safe countries” to 45 days (from 171 days under Balanced Refugee Reform Act); and save money. 

Ian Capstick, Media Style (NDP commentator):

CBC Power and Politics, February 16, 2012

Obviously there are certain countries like the United States of America, for instance, in which obviously we should accept no refugees from. I can’t see any possible imaginable scenario that we would take them from fully developed westernized nations.

Martin Regg Cohn, Toronto Star:

CTV News Channel, February 16, 2012

I do think our refugee system is, if not quite broken, under a tremendous amount of stress.  The acceptance rates for some of these countries — Hungary, Czechoslovakia before a visa restriction was imposed — are one, or two, or three percent. So it’s a tremendous burden on a system that really I don’t think we have that much to apologize for.

So I think there is a lot of public policy behind this. No question the politics is influencing it and giving opportunities to the Conservatives, but I think this might put the system more or less on a better, stronger footing for genuine refugees.

John Ibbitson, Globe and Mail:

CTV News Channel, February 16, 2012

I think we need a system first of all that doesn’t cost too much. I mean if you spend four years processing a bogus refugee claim, that’s the taxpayer who pays for it and that person may also be on welfare and other forms of social assistance during that time. So I agree. And I think there is broad public support for the idea that we need to process refugee claimants fairly and swiftly.

John Ivison, National Post:

CBC Power and Politics, February 16, 2012

I was talking to somebody today who was saying within four days of a claimant landing in Toronto, they can be claiming welfare.  Now that’s an obvious magnet for refugees all over the world. We have the most generous refugee system in the world. We have an acceptance rate of something like 50 per cent. Nowhere else in the world comes close to that.

Well, how many people do you need to consult to figure out that Hungary should not be our leading sources of refugees?  What had happened was that the ten, the top ten countries that we receive refugees from did not figure in the UN’s top ten list of refugees.

Jeffrey Simpson, Globe and Mail

Globe and Mail, February 22, 2012

The Government is also right to change the refugee-determination system to fast-track out of Canada those coming from a list of democratic countries.

National Post Editorial “Making Canadian Citizenship Matter”

February 22, 2012

Reducing the time it takes federal officials to examine claims for asylum is critical. The longer an applicant gets to remain in Canada before a decision is made, the less likely bogus applicants are to be expelled. People who stay here three or more years waiting for their cases to be adjudicated put down roots. They establish homes, have children, develop friendships and forge connections in the community. Then, if their applications are rejected, they plead that it is unfair to expel such a well-established new Canadian.

To speed up the process, Mr. Kenney proposes two major changes: First, he and his department will devise a list of “safe” democratic countries in which human rights are respected and from which few real refugees are likely. If you have “fled” one of these nations and are seeking asylum in Canada, the minister and his officials will have the authority to dismiss your request summarily. Second, once dismissed, you will have little or no right to appeal. One of the reasons so many refugee claimants are able to stay in Canada so long before being turned down is that there are as many as nine levels of appeal. By the time unsuccessful applicants have exhausted all those avenues, they can be old and grey — and the system can have more trouble sending them home.

This bill is merely the latest in a long line of reforms Mr. Kenney has made. He has also attempted to cut down on human trafficking — the practice of smuggling refugee and immigrant claimants into Canada (usually by boat) for a fee. He now also requires such boat people who show up on our shores uninvited and undocumented to remain on naval bases or in holding camps until their cases can be heard. While that means they may be in detention for a year or so, it is an improvement over the previous practice of letting them integrate into the community while they await a hearing. Under that policy, people whose claims were ultimately rejected were widely dispersed and often hard to locate when it came time to send them back.

Not one of these moves is anti-immigrant. Indeed, during Mr. Kenney’s time as Immigration minister, Canada’s annual intake of immigrants has risen by over 15%.

What Mr. Kenney’s changes have done — by removing fraudulent and meaningless claims for asylum and by placing an onus on newcomers to adapt to Canadian society — is restore the value of Canadian citizenship.

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For further information (media only), please contact:

Candice Malcolm
Minister’s Office
Citizenship and Immigration Canada

Media Relations
Communications Branch
Citizenship and Immigration Canada

Building a stronger Canada: Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) strengthens Canada’s economic, social and cultural prosperity, helping ensure Canadian safety and security while managing one of the largest and most generous immigration programs in the world.

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