Narrowing doors for refugees… Health cuts amid the unfair measures!

Despite the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act was prepared to improve the Canada’s immigration system, pragmatic developments of this latest law shows that actually attempts to close further possibilities and social services for those refugees and refugee claimants in Canada.

Jason Kenney, the Citizenship and Immigration Minister has said that this legislation will help stop foreign criminals, human smugglers and those with unfounded refugee claims from abusing Canada’s generous immigration system.

However, many voices coming from human rights organizations such as Amnesty International or associations like the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers – CARL and the Canadian Council of Refugees – CCR have raised concerns on this reform. According to these and other several recognized organizations, this reform will affect dramatically individuals and families who had to flee their home country and came to Canada seeking protection, making their claims more difficult and unfair.

In fact, through my own experience at work with immigrants and refugees, in only two months, I have had the opportunity to see this negative trend. In my opinion, in a short period of time (one to two years), Canada will have increased in hundreds or perhaps in thousands the people living underground. It means highest levels of exclusion and poverty and new social problems. What logic has a country with a growing healthy-economy but an unhealthy society?

The Mennonite Central Committee – MCC has pulled concerns as well, mainly about the way that Canada, based on the new law, will decide who is a refugee.   “We oppose any list of so-called ‘safe’ countries, since any country can be both ‘safe’ and ‘insecure’ depending upon the particular situation of an individual refugee claimant” said Ed Wiebe, MCC Canada’s National Refugee Program Coordinator.

Mr. Wiebe was talking on how this law force to treat refugee claimants differently depending on the country they have came, including the method that refugee claimants have used to come to Canada.

It is not a secret that many asylum seekers in desperate situations, trying to avoid conflicts or fleeing the violence, have found “help” through smugglers who always explode these refugees requesting money or properties when is possible. Making the laws more drastic and unfeasible won’t stop flows of refugees. This only will force refugee and asylum seekers to sell or lose everything in order to pay smugglers to get into safe and rich countries like Canada. And by the way, critics in Canada have said that seems that the new law will be punishing not the smugglers, but the refugees.

Voices in favour of the immigration reform argue that many Canadian Permanent Residents have applied under the Protected Person status, but they have obtained this status based on a fraudulent process of refuge, and once they have been granted with their Permanent Residence have traveled for vacations to their country of origin, showing that everything was fake. However, it is clear that these cases are a minority and the Minister of Immigration should know that; we cannot judge negatively the honest majority based on a wrong minority. Besides, some of them have traveled to their countries by despair or driven by hard family issues.

Canadian Permanent Residents will be also in risk of losing their status because the conditions in their countries of origin have positive changes and conditions improve; what does improve means?…  When these countries have signed free trade agreements with Canada? Have had an electoral processes or Canadian mining companies have business there? We must be sure on this meaning, mostly when the list of safe countries will be an autonomous decision coming only from the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration.

Although human rights violations in several countries have been a Canadian concern, in many cases, when business are in between, and these violations are committed by government agents, the official advocacy for human rights is nothing more than a formality. Business and wealthy immigrants sometimes look as if they are more important to the current government.

Samples of this negative trend are those continuing cuts in social services. One of them is the health care coverage for refugee claimants and refugees, which has suffered several cuts and restrictions. Certainly is an issue related to the latest immigration reform. Fortunately many voices have been raised against these cuts among them a powerful doctors association… “People will die because of limited access to medical care” have said Ottawa-based Dr. Mark Tyndall. Across Canada, including Toronto, Doctors have been crashing events organized by federal ministers.

Many other independent people have been supporting the refugees in Toronto. Doctors Jane Pritchard and Miriam Wiebe from TUMC and New Life Mennonite Church in Toronto have been actively advocating for those refugees in need of health coverage, by serving extra-time many refugees without restrictions.

Finally my latest concern is related with those Convention Refugees with a life in hold because, although they were accepted through an IRB hearing, for different reasons have not been landed yet. They live as refugees in limbo, even during decades undergone a great injustice, sometimes limited in their freedoms of thought and opinion. Now my question is: how this latest immigration reform will affect those Convention Refugees in limbo? What will happen with them? New times of struggling to defend and promote the Canadian Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms are coming!                

*(Luis advocates for immigrants and refugees, and works in settlement issues in Toronto.


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