In honour of World Refugee Day, West Central Women’s Resource Centre sent the following letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and our MP Robert-Falcon Ouellette to voice concerns regarding changes to the refugee determination system included in Bill C-97.
Dear Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Ouellette,
As a nationally respected organization that supports women from all backgrounds and countries of origin, we are concerned on this World Refugee Day about the proposed Bill C-97 related to the changes to the refugee determination system. We are concerned that it introduces a new ground of ineligibility for refugee protection. In particular, the amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) proposed in Bill C-97 would roll back refugee rights by preventing refugees from getting a fair hearing before the Immigration and Refugee Board. This would also prevent them from making a claim in Canada if they had previously been denied asylum in a previous country. The consequences of this Bill are nothing short of life-threatening.
From our experience working closely with refugees, we believe this will affect refugee women in particular and put them in a more vulnerable position as they may not only be fleeing state violence but also severe cases of Intimate Partner Violence. Last year the U.S. Administration said it wouldn’t accept asylum claims based on fleeing domestic violence. This 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 this budget bill.
In the last couple of years, we have met single young women, single mothers and senior women who have had different experiences of violence and persecution. They have come to Canada, while being the main providers for their children, to live in peace, to care for children and other family members, and to simply live a life free from harm and danger. It is a fundamental human right to be safe, and as a leader in human rights, we believe Canada must take a strong stance against xenophobia and protect refugee rights.
Just a month ago, a young woman from East Africa, who is a single mom of a toddler, came for support at our centre. After waiting for a full year, she has just found out that her claim was rejected and this new measure may jeopardize her ability to appeal. This puts her at risk of deportation to her home country which would have potential life-threatening consequences for her and her child.
We urge Canada to continue to be a leader in recognizing domestic violence as a basis on which women may seek Canada’s protection. Many migrant women who have entered the country irregularly, have done it in hopes to find a safe and final destination to re-build their lives. There are a wide range of legitimate reasons why refugee claimants may seek Canada’s protection after having filed a claim elsewhere. They must be given the opportunity to do so.
We urge the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration to reject the amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) proposed in Bill C-97. Significant changes to our refugee determination system impact Canada’s international human rights obligations. Make a difference in the lives of women and their families on this World Refugee Day.
West Central Women’s Resource Centre