Anti Smuggling Bill C-49 Too Far Reaching for Refugees in Canada

If you haven’t heard about the anti smuggling bill, the proposed Bill C-49 is “The Preventing Human Smugglers from Abusing Canada’s Immigration System Act”.

Proposed C-49 Bill to Amend Existing Acts

Right now the Bill is just a proposed bill that would amend the Immigration and Balanced Refugee Protection Act, the Refugee Reform Act and the Marine Transportation Security Act.

It’s only had its first reading in the House of Commons.

About Bill C-49: The Purpose

In order to deal with human smuggling, the Canadian government has proposed a new immigration law that would effectively create two classes of refugee in Canada.

Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney along with Public Safety Minister Vic Toews released details last week about the new law, with Kenney saying that, “the legislation will help prevent the abuse of Canada’s immigration system by human smugglers, while allowing us to continue offering protection to the world’s most vulnerable.”

The law in particular is aimed at preventing more boatloads of refugees from arriving at Canada’s shores, such as the recent ship of almost 500 Tamil migrants that docked in British Columbia.

The most significant part of the new law is that anyone who reaches Canada because of human smuggling will not be allowed to apply for permanent residency for five years, and they will not be allowed to sponsor any family members for the same amount of time. These migrants would be referred to as “irregular arrivals” and would also be processed differently than normal refugees while possible facing up to a year in detention.

Minister Toews said, “Are these measures tough? Yes, undoubtedly because in order to make human smugglers and fraudsters think twice, they have to be. But they are also fair, fair to those who legitimately wait – or have waited – for a better life in Canada.”

About Bill C-49: The Concern

No one wants human smuggling. The problems associated with the illegal transport of people have been well documented.  But what is the standard of proof in determining who is a smuggler?  And what will the legal definition of smuggling be? Are smugglers those who bring, say, their children or relatives to Canada fleeing persecution or just paid fraudsters?  Also, facing a year in detention for refugees who arrive at our shores fleeing persecution really defeats the purpose of protecting these people.

The law is often a “blunt instrument” but nevertheless should not be used to punish those who are desperately seeking our help. They are victims in their own country, often victims en route to Canada and with this new law, they may be again victimized in the name of deterrence.

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Michael Niren

About Michael Niren

Michael is a graduate of Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto. He is a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada, the Canadian Bar Association’s Citizenship and Immigration Section and the Associate Member of the American Bar Association. Read more

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