Coyne, Patriquin and Furey: On the reversal on asylum seekers

Both Coyne and Patriquin being harshly critical and not appearing to believe that asylum shopping is a serious issue, the Globe and columnists like Furey  appear to be supportive of the government’s change in approach. Starting with Coyne:

Naturally, they put it in an omnibus bill.

Buried deep inside the 392 pages of Bill C-97, the budget implementation bill, is a package of amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act that would turn decades of Canadian refugee policy on its head.

The changes would disqualify from consideration refugee claimants who had previously made claims in “a country other than Canada.” (Also ineligible: those whose claims had already been rejected in Canada, or who had been granted refugee protection elsewhere.) What is more, this would apply even to those already on our soil, seeking asylum.

Ever since the Supreme Court’s landmark 1985 ruling in Singh v. Canada, refugee claimants under the protection of Canadian law cannot be deported without having their case heard before an independent tribunal — a recognition of the serious, possibly fatal consequences of sending a genuine refugee, with a “well-founded fear of persecution,” back to his country of origin. Under the new policy, the best that those affected could hope for would be an interview with an immigration official, as part of a “preremoval risk assessment.”

All this came as a complete surprise to refugee advocates. The only mention of it in the budget the bill claims to be implementing was this cryptic remark on p. 326: “The government proposes to introduce legislative amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to better manage, discourage and prevent irregular migration.”

They could hardly have guessed what this would turn out to mean. The changes not only go far beyond the existing Safe Third Country Agreement with the United States, which allows Canada to turn back claimants arriving at official points of entry on our southern border — not once they have already crossed — but would extend it to a number of other countries with whom Canada has immigration “information-sharing” agreements.

Understand: the people whose claims Canada would summarily reject in this fashion would not necessarily have had their claims assessed and rejected by another country – it would be enough that they had made a claim. They would face deportation, what is more, not to the country in which they had earlier made their claim, but to their country of origin, to meet whatever fate awaited them there. All this, without even the right to an independent hearing.

This sort of draconian shift in policy would be shocking coming from any government; among other objections, the courts are almost certain to rule it is a violation of the Charter of Rights. But to find it proposed by the same Liberal government that had long congratulated itself for its commitment to refugee rights, while castigating critics as intolerant, racist and worse, is simply breathtaking.

This is not just the most extraordinary about-face yet — from #WelcomeToCanada to deportations without hearings, in the space of two years — from a government that has made a habit of them. It is a fundamental breach of faith.

“We will restore Canada’s reputation,” the Liberals boasted in the refugees section of their 2015 election platform, “and help more people in need through a program that is safe, secure and humane.”

“Canada once welcomed refugees openly,” it goes on, “but that proud history has faded after a decade of mismanagement under Stephen Harper. We will renew and expand our commitment to helping resettle more refugees, and deliver a refugee program that is safe, secure and humane.”

But that was then, and the refugees that made such useful props for Justin Trudeau in the last election have become an obstacle to his chances in the next, in the face of relentless Tory fear-mongering about the “crisis” on our border. So, over the side they go.

That this was accomplished via yet another mammoth omnibus bill compounds the sense of betrayal. The 2015 Liberal platform also denounced the Harper government for its use of omnibus bills “to prevent Parliament from properly reviewing and debating his proposals,” vowing to “bring an end” to “this undemocratic practice.”

When the bill comes to a vote, moreover, Liberal MPs will inevitably be whipped to support it — as a budget bill, after all, it is an automatic confidence matter. This turns yet another Liberal campaign pledge inside out.

The platform had promised that MPs would be free to vote as they pleased on virtually all questions; outside of confidence matters, the whips would be applied only to votes that “implement the Liberal electoral platform” or that touch on “the protections guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.” In this case, MPs will be whipped to vote for a bill that contradicts the platform and runs roughshod over Charter guarantees.

Mere hypocrisy or breach of faith, however, would not suffice to condemn the Liberal changes, if they were otherwise well-advised. It would be obtuse to hold a government to the course it had set out on, however disastrous, just for the sake of a foolish consistency. Those Conservatives who are now attacking the Liberals for adopting the very positions for which they had previously attacked the Conservatives – on top of the changes in the omnibus bill, the government was earlier reported to be in negotiations with the United States to extend the Safe Third Country Agreement to the entire border — are entitled, perhaps, to gloat. They are not entitled to claim vindication.

No, what is wrong about the new Liberal policy is not that it is hypocritical, but simply that it is wrong: arbitrary, inhumane, and vastly unnecessary. There is no emergency that could possibly justify rejecting refugee claimants out of hand, solely on the basis of having made a prior claim, — “asylum-shopping,” the Border Security minister, Bill Blair, called it, without apparent sense of shame — still less deporting them without a hearing. The numbers of those crossing the U.S.-Canada border irregularly are falling, not rising.

The emergency, rather, would appear to be in the falling numbers of those telling pollsters they intend to vote Liberal. For what is the risk of sending innocent people to their deaths, when there are marginal seats in peril?

From Patriquin:
As a term, “asylum shopping” is probably worthy of scare quotes. Though it’s not quite as loaded as “chain migration”— a term usually used to inspire fear of an unchecked immigrant invasion — it nonetheless invokes those darker stereotypes often ascribed to migrants. These people aren’t running from an immediate danger, you see. They’re seeking asylum in multiple countries, probing for the weakest point, if only to steal our jobs and harvest the bounty from our social safety net.

“Asylum shopping” didn’t tumble from the lips of Bill Blair, the Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction Minister — at least, not entirely. Nonetheless, he was the picture of consternation at the allegedly pervasive practice.

“We don’t want them shopping and making application in multiple countries. What we’re trying to do is to make sure the system is fair and efficient for those who truly need our protection,” Blair said this week. Cracking down on asylum shopping is a key part of the government’s $1.2 billion effort to reduce the number of would-be migrants coming into the country.

Fair enough.

The number of asylum seekers has nearly tripled since 2016, and addressing the issue, or at least further girding the system to deal with its reality, is a certainly a legitimate government goal. The problem is the rhetoric that Blair and others have attached to it. By first politicizing the idea of “asylum shopping,” then quickly promising to do something about it, the Trudeau government has shown how desperation tends to breed rank hypocrisy.

The latter-day Liberals are proof of the axiom that in politics, you inevitably become what you once professed to hate. Imagine the conspicuous indignation that would have emanated from 2015-vintage Liberal Party ranks had the Conservative government cooked up, in the crucible of Stephen Harper’s all-powerful PMO, a plot to try and override the country’s independent judiciary by jettisoning a certain Quebec-based engineering firm from likely legal catastrophe.

And yet in 2019, four years after winning an election by way of promises to do away with such Conservative overindulgences, the Liberals did just this — and through an all-powerful PMO of the type Trudeau himself vowed to dismantle, no less.

Though more visceral a topic, the government’s “asylum shopping” gambit nonetheless comes at the tail end of a similarly tortured ideological climbdown. The 2015-era Liberals chided the Conservative’s apparently heartless response to the Syrian refugee crisis.

“You don’t get to suddenly discover compassion in the middle of an election campaign,” Trudeau said of the Harper government’s reaction to the drowning death of Alan Kurdi, whose tiny body washed up on a Turkish beach.

Trudeau, Trudeau assured us, would do better. And to his great credit, he made good by allowing some 25,000 Syrian refugees into the country. About two years later, he became a notably photogenic counterpoint to Trumpian nativism by welcoming “those fleeing persecution, terror and war” by way of Twitter, just as The Donald was wishing them gone. Conservative criticism on migration was nothing short of “fear mongering,” as Trudeau put it late last year.

Ah, but that was before the churn of the next election cycle and the Liberal government’s increasing desperation in the wake of the SNC-Lavalin fallout, not to mention the corresponding bump in Conservative fortunes. The Trudeau government’s migration bon mots belie a certain truth: the steady tide of asylum seekers from the U.S. has eroded the Canadian welcome mat, according to a comprehensive Angus Reid poll conducted earlier this year.

This enduring and widespread sentiment is directly at odds with the Trudeau government’s pro-migrant spiel, peddled for the last four years. So as we approach the October election, the government has simply changed its tune, from “Canadians will welcome you” and “diversity is strength,” to “fair and efficient” and “asylum shopping.”

For any government, delegitimizing the plight of migrants is crass, bottom-feeder politicking. For the Liberals, whose rise to power was meant to be a rebuke to this kind of thing, it is even worse — particularly considering how asylum shopping isn’t a particularly widespread problem, as the CBC’s Kathleen Harris pointed out this week.

It’s just further evidence that the convictions of the current government ebb and flow with its re-election prospects.

Source: Delegitimizing the plight of migrants is crass, bottom-feeder politicking

From Furey (who no longer appears to be working for the Sun and features regularly with the online True North of former Conservative staffers and candidates):

Finally! The Liberals have done something to deal with the unsustainable influx of people crossing illegally into Canada, mostly at the Roxham Road crossing along the Quebec border.

The data shows that for both 2017 and 2018 there was a near constant flow of approximately 20,000 people per year. It was a troubling figure and one that showed no signs of decreasing. Thankfully the numbers for January and February of 2019 have shown a decrease but there’s no guarantee the numbers won’t rise again.

While refugee advocates wanted to characterize everyone crossing as genuine refugees fleeing war and famine, there was little evidence to support that.

The majority of asylum claimants came from Haiti and Nigeria – two countries that Canadians certainly wouldn’t consider ideal places to live but aren’t facing major wars displacing people and aren’t ravaged by recent natural disasters. All indication was that these were economic migrants – people who simply wanted to move to Canada. You can’t blame them, Canada’s a pretty great country, but there are rules and processes in place to come here and those need to be followed.

For two years, groups like True North, conservative politicians, various pundits and members of the legal community pointed all of this out, how it’s unsustainable and how there needs to be changes, and the Liberal response was to cry “racist” and other nasty labels.

Good luck with that strategy, I’d always thought.

The various polls over the years showed the majority of people didn’t support what was happening at the border. And there was no way they were going to buy into this cynical messaging that opposing legal immigration was somehow a wholesale racist statement. Meanwhile, recent immigrants and others whose family members were still waiting in the legal queue weren’t happy either.

It looks like the Liberals have realized that despite their Social Justice Warrior inclination towards open borders, the rest of the public aren’t going along with it. Maybe because they’re finally clued in or because of the upcoming election, they’ve decided to do something about it.

Buried within the 2019 budget omnibus bill are changes to the asylum system that aim to deny people have had an asylum claim already rejected in the United States (and other safe third countries such as the U.K.) from then going on to make one in Canada.

It’s to prevent what Border Security Minister Bill Blair calls asylum shopping. This means they wouldn’t be placed in the multiyear waiting line, where they receive government assistance while waiting to hear if their claim will be accepted. Instead they’ll more likely be fast-tracked for rejection and removal.

This won’t actually put that big of a dent in the numbers as the statistics show only about 10% of the current illegal crossers had previously applied for asylum in the United States.

It’s rather humorous to now watch as refugee lawyers and activists display their outrage towards Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, throwing the same sorts of words at him as he previously tossed at others and also threatening legal challenges.

But still, these changes are something and it’s a move in the right direction.

Here are the questions though: Why didn’t they do it sooner? Is this only for election purposes? Will they keep advancing on this file? And was all the name-calling and divisiveness over the past two years worth it?

Source: READ MORE

Globe editorial: On immigration, the Trudeau Liberals are going off-brand – and hitting the mark

Reasonable balance, as also seen in Ibbitson’s piece (Liberals’ immigration plan is sound policy delivered poorly: John Ibbitson):

Canada needs immigrants. Canada needs secure borders. These may sound like contradictory claims; they are not. They go hand-in-hand.

Over the past couple of weeks, the Trudeau Liberals have abruptly woken up to this reality. They’ve started talks with the United States to close a loophole in the Safe Third Country Agreement that allows people who enter Canada at irregular border crossings to make a refugee claim, rather than being turned away. They also introduced legislation – buried in an omnibus budget bill – to make anyone who has filed an asylum claim in the United States and several other countries ineligible to do so in Canada.

The target is the influx of migrants at Roxham Road. Over the past two years, about 40,000 people have walked across the Canada-U.S. border, most on a street that dead-ends where New York stops and Quebec starts. These people are not illegal immigrants; the vast majority willingly surrender to authorities so that they can make an asylum claim, giving them legal status in Canada, including the right to work for as long as it takes an extremely slow and backlogged refugee system to decide on the merits of their claim.

Our refugee system is generous, but it’s also very slow-moving. And it’s breaking down and losing public confidence under the strain of too many people trying to use it. Many appear to be travelling to the United States on tourist visas for the purpose of making a refugee claim in Canada.

The Liberals’ latest steps to address this risk is damaging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s brand. His government is now doing something that it spent the past three years attacking the Conservatives for even talking about. But though it’s out of sync with the Trudeau government’s previous rhetoric, it’s in line with how Canadian governments of all stripes have dealt with immigration over the past few decades.

Under a series of administrations, Liberal, Progressive Conservative and Conservative, the vast majority of immigrants – whether economic migrants, family-reunification arrivals or refugees – have always been chosen from overseas and only entered Canada after having been vetted. It has been immigration by choice – Canada’s choice.

That’s true, for example, of the influx of Syrian refugees into Canada early in the Trudeau government’s mandate. They chose Canada, but first Canada chose them.

Next to its open immigration door, Canada has long had bureaucratic walls and moats. Canadian governments have consistently taken steps, most of which go largely unnoticed by Canadians, to make it extremely difficult for anyone to come to Canada if there is a risk that person may attempt to remain in the country, whether as an illegal immigrant or as an asylum-seeker.

That’s mostly been about making it very difficult to get to Canadian soil and gain access to the Canadian legal system. To take just one example, a 2017 World Economic Forum survey of travel and tourism professionals ranked Canada as one of the worst countries in the world – 120th out of 136 – for the restrictiveness of visitor visa requirements. But that’s not a bug of Canada’s visa system. It’s a feature.

Compared with our southern neighbour, Canada is a high-immigration country. That’s long been true. Relative to population, Canada takes in roughly three times as many legal immigrants as the United States. And while the number of foreign-born American residents recently hit a high of 13.5 per cent, at no time since the 1901 has Canada’s level of foreign-born residents been that low. Today, 21.9 per cent of Canadians were born overseas.

Compared with our southern neighbour, Canada has also always had low levels of irregular, unauthorized, unexpected and illegal immigration. Washington doesn’t even know how many illegal immigrants the country has; estimates range from 10.7-million to 22-million to nearly 30-million.

That has poisoned the American immigration debate, and made rational immigration discussions almost impossible.

For a growing number of voters and politicians on the American right, all immigration, legal or illegal, is seen as a threat. For a large number of their opponents on the left, any distinction between legal and illegal immigrants is similarly rejected. Talk of higher legal immigration is unacceptable on the American right; talk of lower illegal immigration is unacceptable on the left.

For Canadians, it should be a cautionary tale.

Source: On immigration, the Trudeau Liberals are going off-brand – and hitting the mark

Refugee advocates ‘shocked and dismayed’ over asylum changes in budget bill

Well, of course they would be. That being said, it does represent another example of abuse of omnibus bills given the intended impact of this change and the ongoing shift in the government’s position which should be subject to thorough parliamentary and other discussion.

Will be interesting to see how the current and expected court challenges turn out:

Lawyers and advocates who work directly with refugees say they are dismayed by proposed changes to asylum laws included in the Liberals’ new budget bill, calling them a devastating attack on refugee rights in Canada.

The Trudeau government is proposing to prevent asylum seekers from making refugee claims in Canada if they have made similar claims in certain other countries, including the United States.

Border Security Minister Bill Blair said the measure aims to prevent “asylum-shopping.”

“I can tell you we’ve been working very hard over the past several months to significantly reduce the number of people who are crossing our borders irregularly,” Blair told reporters Tuesday. “There’s a right way to come to the country to seek asylum and/or to seek to immigrate to this country, and we’re trying to encourage people to use the appropriate channels and to disincentivize people from doing it improperly.”

The proposed changes blindsided refugee advocates and lawyers, who say they would strip human-rights protections from vulnerable refugee claimants.

“In terms of the effect on refugees, the effect is really immeasurable, because we’re now giving refugee claimants a degraded process to go through,” said Maureen Silcoff, the chair of the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers’ litigation committee.

The new provision in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act — which was tucked into the 392-page omnibus budget bill tabled Monday evening — introduces a new ground of ineligibility for refugee protection. If an asylum-seeker has previously opened a claim for refugee protection in another country, his or her claim would be ineligible for consideration — as would claims by people who already have made unsuccessful claims here, been deemed inadmissible because of their criminal records, or been granted refugee protection elsewhere.

The provision is based on the belief that Canada’s refugee system is similar enough to that of the U.S. that anyone rejected there is likely to be rejected here as well.

Under Canada’s “Safe Third Country Agreement” with the U.S., would-be refugees who arrive at official border crossings from the United States and try to claim asylum will be turned back to the U.S. But the agreement doesn’t apply to people already on Canadian soil when they make their claims.

This has led to over 40,000 asylum-seekers crossing into Canada “irregularly” through unofficial paths along the Canada-U.S. border since early 2017, coinciding with U.S. government efforts to expel people who had been given temporary permission to stay in the United States.

A case for a Charter challenge?

Under the new provisions introduced Monday, asylum-seekers deemed ineligible to make claims in Canada will not necessarily be deported to their homelands. They will still undergo pre-removal risk assessments to determine if it is safe to send them back to their countries of origin.

But this takes away their legal right to have their refugee claims heard by an independent tribunal or a court — something that could be subject to a Charter challenge.

A 1985 Supreme Court ruling, known as the Singh decision after the group of Sikh refugee claimants involved in the case, ruled that asylum-seekers have the right to full oral hearings of their refugee claims. The decision is considered one of the most significant in Canadian refugee law and was instrumental in the formation of the Immigration and Refugee Board — the arm’s-length agency that hears refugee claims in Canada.

Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees, said she suspects refugee lawyers are already starting to look closely the legalities of the government’s proposed changes.

“For sure there are serious Charter issues that may be raised,” she said.

‘Shock and dismay’

The pre-removal risk assessment, to which asylum-seekers in Canada will retain access, can include a hearing, but Dench said it’s not the same and, in practice, is usually more like an interview. The hearing is not automatic.

Dench said she and her members, which include over 100 Canadian organizations that work directly with refugees and immigrants, were “in a state of shock and dismay and great disappointment” over the proposed changes.

“This is really a devastating attack on refugee rights,” she said. “We’ve been urging the government to drop the existing ineligibility provisions, which already leave some people without the protection that they need from Canada. This is going a huge step further in creating another whole category of people who will be denied access to the refugee determination system on an arbitrary basis.”

That the changes were included as part of an omnibus budget implementation bill is even more upsetting to the refugee advocates.

‘Undemocratic’

Substantial changes to immigration laws like the ones being proposed ought to be given a more thorough treatment in Parliament rather than being rushed in a budget bill, Silcoff said.

“CARL (the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers) believes that human rights have no place in a budget bill. It’s undemocratic.”

NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan echoed these concerns, calling the proposed changes “unconscionable” and the fact they were introduced in a budget bill “shocking.”

“These are standalone bills and they should be dealt with as such, and to try and bury in the budget bill is absolutely contrary to what (Prime Minister Justin) Trudeau himself promised in the 2015 election.”

The Conservative party has frequently demanded that the Liberal government keep people from getting into the country to make asylum claims. Conservative immigration critic Michelle Rempel said the changes indicate that Trudeau has “effectively admitted that he has failed to manage our border.”

Don’t cut social assistance for newcomers to Canada: Omidvar

Ratna Omidvar correctly calls out the Government on the omnibus budget bill provision allowing provinces to deny social assistance to refugee claimants:

Future citizenship is both policy and public philosophy. There is a clear and relatively quick pathway to citizenship for immigrants to Canada, although the waiting time is set to get longer in 2015. As for public philosophy, immigrant children learn in public schools from a young age that “you’re just as Canadian as anyone else.” Because this message is in our books and infused in our day-to-day, the idea that immigrants are future citizens actually becomes lived expression.

In the last of her Massey Lectures on citizenship, Adrienne Clarkson explains why the Canadian mindset works using the theory of Hans Vaihinger, who thought that to act “as if” something is true is a practical way to get there.

Because we treat newcomers as future citizens, serious investment is made in their health, well-being and skill level from the start, often regardless of immigration status. Canada has a robust settlement sector, we pay for language courses, we extend health care and social services to non-citizens, and some cities invite non-citizens to sit on local boards. The Canadian mindset is why our school boards and police services follow a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, so that status does not determine access to essential services. When we act as if newcomers are citizens, they truly are citizens in the making.

But this core trait that makes us work — and that’s exportable to countries like Germany where the citizenship laws are under revision — is being chipped away by policies introduced by this government. I alluded to one of these changes already: the coming increase in residence time from three to four years before applying for citizenship.

But there is another change buried in a thick new omnibus bill and it is far worse. It would allow provinces to restrict refugee claimants and others without permanent status from accessing social assistance by lifting a ban on minimum residency requirements — a ban that said we don’t care if you’ve been here for two years or 24 hours, if you’re a refugee claimant or other temporary resident, you will be treated humanely. In the worst-case scenario if this law is passed, people without permanent status would lose social assistance, which for some is their only source of income.

Don’t cut social assistance for newcomers to Canada | Toronto Star.

Refugee advocates battle federal government over welfare

More on the Government’s decision to allow provinces to restrict access to refugee claimants to social assistance.

As usual, appears limited or no consultations with provinces, no evidence-base provided as justification, and buried in the omnibus budget bill to avoid Parliamentary scrutiny and debate:

Ontario says it won’t go along with a proposed federal bill that refugee groups fear could severely restrict their clients’ access to welfare during their first months in Canada.

“We have no intention to change our policy as it relates to refugee claimants at all,” Community and Social Services Minister Helena Jaczek said in an interview Tuesday.

She was referring to the ongoing fight is over provisions in Bill C-43 an omnibus budgetary bill. Refugee groups say the proposals will allow provinces to restrict access to social assistance for refugee claimants and others who have not yet been granted permanent residence.

“We were not consulted. There was no communication from the federal government alerting us. We were very surprised,” Jaczek said of the omnibus bill.

“It’s sort of a downloading to the province to make a decision.”

On Tuesday the Canadian Council for Refugees joined 160 groups across Canada to release an open letter to federal Finance Minister Joe Oliver to withdraw the proposals, and a small group demonstrated in front of his constituency office in Toronto and delivered the letter through the mail slot.

“To receive social assistance in any province, one must already qualify through testing and demonstrate great need. To then deny social assistance based on immigration status is to cruelly deny the most vulnerable in our society the crucial lifeline that allows them to survive,’’ the groups say in the letter.

Refugee advocates battle federal government over welfare | Toronto Star.