bill c-49: it's not anti-smuggling, it's anti-human, and it's un-canadian

This was a bad week for Canada. Rob Ford was elected mayor of Toronto. The US finally succeeded in breaking Omar Khadr into a "confession". Private Member's Bill C-300, the responsible mining bill, died in third reading when a dozen Liberals and two NDP MPs didn't vote. (Sound familiar?)

It's a bad week added to many bad weeks, and months, and years, of this anti-democratic, anti-people Conservative government and their spineless Liberal lapdogs. (My apologies to small dogs everywhere. My sister's Papillion named Pixie has more gumption than the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada.)

There's one more fight this week, and it's a doozy: C-49. Jason Kenney claims it's anti-smuggling, but in reality, it's anti-refugee. It's anti-human.

Refugee claimants have no voice in Canada. That makes them easy targets for the immigrant-hating Conservative bullies. That's why we must speak for them, and for a Canada that includes justice.

I'll quote a friend who is a refugee lawyer.
The government says it wants to legislate stiffer penalties for those who engage in people smuggling. I believe at present the law provides for a stiff fine for those who engage in people smuggling but the government wants to impose prison time.

Unfortunately, the government is ALSO imposing punishment on those people who arrive in Canada with the assistance of smugglers or criminals. Such people (along with anyone the government can’t examine within a timely manner) are to be placed in mandatory detention for a period of minimum 1 year. Thereafter, if their refugee claims are accepted, they are banned from applying for permanent residence for 5 years.

Who will this impact?

The Bill will impact a lot of refugees.

Unlike Canadians who are generally visa-exempt and able to travel to wherever we please, a lot of people around the world need the special permission of a government – an entry visa – in order to get on a plane and physically leave their country. Airplanes won’t let them on without these visas. This is why a lot of refugees who are fleeing serious harm to themselves and their families must employ the assistance of others to get out. They must purchase fake passports or other means of travelling just so they can get out of their country and avoid being killed. Under the bill proposed by the conservatives, Bill c-49, it is these people who WILL - not may, WILL - be placed in prison for a year.

The Refugee Convention – the international treaty that requires Canada to grant asylum to those people who fear persecution, torture or cruel and unusual punishment in their country of origin – takes into account the reality that people fleeing persecution will often have to travel on fake documents or with the assistance of some illegitimate means and therefore orders that refugees not be punished for doing so. Bill C-49 would totally ignore that binding requirement on Canada. (No wonder Canada didn’t get a seat on the Security Council since our federal government could care less about international law or the UN).

So the bill will result in imprisoning a lot of legitimate refugees who arrive in Canada seeking asylum and the basic right to live, just because they... well... just because they did what it is acknowledged by the international community they had to do in order to save their lives. Does that seem fair or necessary to you?

Why does the 5 year ban on permanent residence status matter?

A person cannot sponsor any family members to come to Canada until they are permanent residents. So this means families – parents, kids, spouses – will remain separated from each other for at least a period of 6 years but more likely 8 or 9 when all the additional processing is taken into account.

Does that sound right to you? What benefit is derived from imposing mandatory detention for refugees? What benefit is derived from banning these people from applying for permanent residence status for 5 years?

The law will not deter smugglers from engaging in their activities. The law will only punish refugees. The bill is therefore, in my opinion, clearly anti-refugee, as opposed to anti-smuggler. The government could have merely imposed stiffer punishment on those who are the smugglers, but instead they have also decided to punish refugees, the most vulnerable of the world’s people, who need our help.

Please just take four minutes to write your MP and say: I don’t think refugees should be placed in prison. Please don’t vote yes for Bill C-49.

Go here to find your MP's contact information.

Go here to learn more about Bill C-49 and how unjust it is: Canadian Council for Refugees.

Worth reading: Tory refugee bill would have rejected Einstein.

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