Refugee policies are complicated, require sensitivity, and stir up much emotion. As a result, it is crucial that the public be involved in the development of such policies to provide various viewpoints and options. But with the recent refugee bill public debate was only held during the amendment process, not in the drafting of the legislation. Eventually all parties and many refugee advocacy organizations accepted the amendments, recognizing that there were some improvements, but still cautious about the prospects for future refugee cases.
News: Refugee Rights
Rebekah Sears looks at the proposed changes to the refugee system, questioning whether they emphasize Fast at the Expense of Fair? Rebekah notes several conditions the proposed changes need to meet in order to ensure the system remains fair.
Yesterday I took the tour through the Refugee Camp in the Heart of the City (put on by Médecins sans Frontières) in Ottawa. It was a very educational, moving and humbling experience.
MSF is bringing the tour to Montreal (May 20-23), Toronto (May 27-30) and Waterloo (June 3-6) in the coming weeks. I highly recommend taking the tour. See below for more details and links.
Since the 1970s, Médecins sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders) has been working in crisis and emergency situations, providing care and helping those most vulnerable, including refugees and internally displaced people. MSF estimates that over 42 million people around the world have been uprooted by war, either as refugees or internally displaced persons.
But what do we really know about what experiences in these camps are like, and how can we become more informed and make a difference?
April 4 is Refugee Rights Day in Canada, when we commemorate the declaration by the Supreme Court in 1985 that the Charter of Rights of Freedoms is meant to protect the rights to liberty, personal security and justice of everyone in Canada, including refugees. This means that all refugee claimants are entitled to an oral hearing to make their case.
This year, Refugee Rights Day comes less than a week after Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announces major changes to Canada’s refugee and asylum system. In response to the rising number of asylum claims and the long waiting list Kenney has made changes, part of which is the proposal of a "safe country" list which will categorize applications.
False claims are a real concern, as is the daunting backlog of applicants, but is the categorization of refugee applicants by country a viable solution? What about the Supreme Court decision which emphasizes equal treatment?
In Canada, our labour laws extend to all workers, both in the public and private sectors. These laws include the maintaining of proper and safe working conditions, and ensuring that complete wages are issued. All workers, be they citizens, permanent residents, immigrants or temporary foreign workers, documented and undocumented fall under this protection.
Unfortunately, despite our laws incidents of abuse, including the withholding of wages still occur in Canada, and often in connection with temporary foreign workers.
In 2009 Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney promised significant reforms to Canadian immigration policy before the end of the year. In the last months of 2009, several small changes were introduced, including improvements to the Live-in Caregivers program and better recognition of foreign credentials. We are still awaiting the major changes.
But before the changes are announced, Minister Kenney and the government should consider what Canadians really think about immigration.
On Monday, January 25 I attended an all day seminar hosted by Metropolis called “Welcoming Communities: How could Canadian communities be more welcoming?” The focus of this seminar was on efforts from a variety of sectors to welcome newcomers into Canadian communities.
An important element in making newcomers feel welcome is engaging the general population. Public education and awareness campaigns or proactive efforts to connect newcomers with Canadian residents are important. Education can help people understand one another while addressing concerns surrounding growing diversity and multiculturalism in Canada. Both government and non-government sectors need to be involved.
In the past month, Citizenship and Immigration Minister, Jason Kenney has been announcing a series of small changes to Canada’s immigration policies. The most recent changes concern the Live-in Caregivers program. This program is just one of many within Canada’s Temporary Foreign Workers (TFW) Program, allowing qualified individuals to provide care to children, elderly people or people with disabilities within a private home.
On Saturday Kenney announced what he called “significant improvements” for Live-in Caregivers (LiCs) in Canada.
Yesterday Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney released a new study guide for prospective Canadian citizens. Entitled Discover Canada: The rights and responsibilities of Canadian citizenship, the guide is much more extensive regarding Canadian history, and the forming of our country than the old guide.
Much of the historical emphasis, especially pre-Confederation history, is on the role of Aboriginal peoples, as well as the various English and French groups. But the expanding diversity and ethnic and cultural backgrounds among many of the more recent immigrants is also mentioned as well as the role of such immigrants in shaping Canada.
A sign of faithfulness to God was always understood by the people of Israel and later by Christians as compliance with the Biblical injunction to care for the widows, orphans and aliens. Today, this Biblical reference can refer to the approximately 250,000 immigrants who come to our shores each year, plus refugee claimants, and over 200,000 temporary and seasonal workers.