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

Highways in and out of Revelstoke close

Highway 1 is now open to single alternative traffic, but Highway 23 south is closed

NDP bring Green New Deal to the Kootenays

MPs Wayne Stetski and Peter Julian held climate change talks in Nelson, Cranbrook and Revelstoke

Grizzly bear and off-leash dog encounters have caused some trails to be closed to dogs in Mt. Revelstoke National Park

Though dogs aren’t prohibited on all of the trails they must always be on leash

Terry Fox run in Revelstoke coming up Sept. 15

There will be a 2 km, 5 km and 10 km

Grass fire breaks out on highway south of Vernon

Highway 97 traffic slowed as firefighters snuff grass fire

Summerland relaunches net metering program

Event open house will be held Aug. 27 from 3 to 6 p.m in Arena Banquet Room

Conan turns to the Property Brothers for tips on buying Greenland

Jonathan Scott suggests removing glaciers and mountains to bring in ‘more natural light’

Forests minister visits B.C. town hit by multiple mill shutdowns

A third of Mackenzie turns out for rally, not much to cheer about

B.C. sockeye returns drop as official calls 2019 ‘extremely challenging’

Federal government says officials are seeing the same thing off Alaska and Washington state

Preliminary inquiry set for accused Penticton killer

John Brittain, 68, will be back in Penticton court from Jan. 27 to 31

B.C. music teacher accused of sexual misconduct involving girls

Police believe other victims could be out there after the arrest of Lamar Victor Alviar

Vernon man facing drug trafficking charges in Kelowna

The man was found with suspected cocaine, heroin and fentanyl and thousands of dollars in cash

Most Read