FILE – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivers an official apology to Inuit for the federal government’s management of tuberculosis in the Arctic from the 1940s to the 1960s during an event in Iqaluit, Nunavut on Friday, March 8, 2019. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Refugee changes will hurt women asylum seekers, women’s organizations say

Last year, the United States said it wouldn’t accept asylum claims based on fleeing domestic violence

A group of Canadian women’s organizations have called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to withdraw controversial changes to asylum laws in his government’s omnibus budget bill because of the harm they would cause to women targeted by harsh U.S. immigration policies.

Last year, the United States said it wouldn’t accept asylum claims based on fleeing domestic violence.

Canadian organizations that help vulnerable women said the American decision would mean any woman whose asylum claim was denied in the U.S. would also be denied full access to Canada’s refugee determination system under the Liberals’ budget bill.

The Liberals want to change Canadian laws to prevent asylum-seekers from making refugee claims in Canada if they have made similar claims in certain other countries, including the United States.

The new provision in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act was tucked into a 392-page omnibus budget bill tabled last month.

RED MORE: Canada’s asylum system unable to respond to spikes in claims, auditor finds

An open letter to Trudeau from 46 groups, many of which support battered women and victims of violence, ask him to scrap the proposed restrictions that they call “deeply harmful” to female refugees.

“The proposed amendments are a step backward from Canada’s current refugee determination system, which has long recognized domestic violence as a basis on which women may seek Canada’s protection,” said Amanda Dale, director or the Feminist Alliance for International Action at a press conference on Parliament Hill Wednesday.

“These amendments have the result that women who experience domestic violence will not benefit from the full and fair process to which refugee claimants are entitled under law.”

Trudeau has defended the changes to refugee rules by saying Canada has seen larger numbers of refugee claims because of global instability. Sustaining Canadians’ confidence in the country’s asylum system means ensuring those who enter Canada must do so according to the law, he told reporters last month.

The government has also said the new provisions are designed to prevent asylum seekers from “shopping” for asylum claims in multiple countries.

Lawyers and advocates who work with refugees decry the move as a devastating attack on refugee rights in Canada.

Women’s groups now joining the chorus of concern said the new law would mean Canada is, by extension, supporting the U.S. policy that blocks victims of gender-based violence from seeking asylum — something they say would violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms by denying claimants their right to due process.

The new provisions remove the ability for these claims to be heard by an independent tribunal or a court.

“Refugee women are not shopping for a better immigration deal, they are looking for protection,” said Ketty Nivyabandi of the Nobel Women’s Initiative.

“If Canada is to be a leader globally in women’s rights, it must continue to recognize that many countries fail to protect women from domestic violence and this is why some women and girls seek asylum here.”

Asylum-seekers deemed ineligible to make claims in Canada would not necessarily be deported to their homelands. They would first undergo pre-removal risk assessments to determine if it is safe to send them to their countries of origin.

READ MORE: Trudeau defends changes to asylum laws that have refugee workers alarmed

Border Security Minister Bill Blair told a committee of MPs Tuesday evening that all asylum seekers who fall under the new law would be given access to an expanded risk assessment, which would allow them a “hearing” before department officials where they could have legal representation.

But Lobat Sadrehashemi, president of the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, said there is nothing in the budget bill creating the process Blair outlined at committee. She said the groups are hopeful parliamentarians remove the refugee provisions from the rest of the budget bill.

“Of course, if they don’t, then there is the possibility of litigation,” she said.

Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Board of Education hires independent consultant to review SD82 reassignments

Review will not change recent decisions but will gather input, says board chair

Prince Rupert marine business adds second catamaran to its fleet

100-passenger Aurora was launched this year for the Rio Tinto Kemano tunnel project

Terrace-area gold project shows strong promise

Juggernaut Exploration hopes this year’s drilling will follow last year’s exceptional program

New protocol will better assist victims of sexual assault

Victims of sexual assault are set to benefit from the completion of… Continue reading

School district remains firm on reassignments

Community calling for halt of decision

VIDEO: Trans Mountain expansion project gets green light, again

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the decision in Ottawa on Tuesday afternoon

MPs hear retired B.C. nurse’s petition to change compensation for fatal medical errors

Teri McGrath wants provinces to implement no-fault system for medical errors

Horgan says he’ll still defend B.C. coast after second Trans Mountain approval

Meanwhile, one B.C. First Nation has announced plans for a legal challenge

Demonstrators on either side of Trans Mountain debate clash in Vancouver

Crowd heard from member of Indigenous-led coalition that hopes to buy 51% of expansion project

Grieving B.C. mom hopes Facebook message leads to new investigation into son’s Surrey homicide

Criminal Justice Branch didn’t lay charges, concluding no substantial likelihood of murder or manslaughter conviction

B.C.’s measles vaccination program gains traction in May

More than 15,000 doses of the MMR vaccine has been administered across the province

B.C. farmers concerned Agricultural Land Reserve changes choking their livelihood

Dozens voice concerns at special meeting hosted on Vancouver Island

UPDATE: Two-year-old involved in Chilliwack pool drowning has died

Toddler was reported to not be breathing as air ambulance called out Thursday afternoon

Family frustrated Terrace dad with advanced cancer must wait weeks for treatment

‘We can see his health declining every day,’ daughter says

Most Read