How Does Bill C-31 Affect Immigration to Canada?2012-02-24
I’ve had a number of people ask if the newly introduced Bill C-31 (not yet passed into legislation at this point) will affect immigration to Canada. This post is aimed at addressing that question.
What does Bill C-31 do?
Bill C-31, named “Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act” is not targeted at those wishing to immigrate to Canada through the standard categories (such as skilled worker, sponsorship, and so forth), nor for those wishing to enter Canada temporarily for work, visit or study reasons.
Bill C-31 is targeted at the refugee and asylum rules. It seeks to improve Canada’s ability to respond to human trafficking and smuggling. It also introduces biometric data (genetic fingerprinting of sorts) aimed at preventing known criminals and failed refugee claimaints from re-entering Canada under assumed identities.
It also intends to speed processing for refugee claimants and respond to natural or other disasters in the world where Canada has traditionally accepted refugee claims from people who are homeless (or even stateless).
Criticism of Bill C-31
There has been a lot of criticism of Bill C-31. As it stands, refugee claimants will have 15 days to submit a written application from the day they arrive or have their claim abandoned and refused – far too short for most people who don’t even have English as a second language.
As well, refugees can be automatically detained for 1 year without review, and even after they are accepted, they can be deported if the Minister believes they no longer face a risk in their country.
Such measures are opposed to Canada’s traditional (and respected) approach of treating refugee claimants fairly.
The Canadian Bar Association is meeting with legislative officials to help address some of these harsh measures – let’s hope that the government will re-write this bill to find a middle ground between protecting our refugee system and treating people humanely and with dignity.