Bill C-31: A Paradigm Shift
Historically, Canada has held a world renowned reputation as a nation with a magnanimous humanitarian approach to providing asylum to those individuals subjected to marginalization and persecution in their homeland – regardless of their nation of origin (Ismaili, 2011, p.89 & 92). Indeed, providing sanctuary to refugees, who would otherwise experience significant hardship ranging from blatant discrimination and racism to torture and genocide, has very much become an institutionalized aspect of Canadian society. However, recent changes to Canada’s immigration policy delineated in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and in Bill C-31: An Act to Protect Canada’s Immigration System may have perhaps put this humanitarian ideal in peril (Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, 2001).
One of the more disconcerting aspects of Bill C-31 is the newly adopted Designated Country of Origin (DCO) legislation which has indefinitely labeled particular nations as “safe”. Consequently, individuals claiming refugee status who originate from these countries no longer have the same rights and privileges afforded to their refugee counterparts from other nations (“Overview of C-31,” 2013). In turn, this legislation has led to a dichotomy between those who view this change as necessary in order to diminish the supposed influx of embellished and falsified refugee claims, and those who view this policy as discriminatory and prejudiced towards people originating from certain “safe” nations.
The Case for DCO Legislation
The primary purpose of the DCO legislation introduced in Bill C-31 is deterrence. In other words, by denying refuge to a supposed influx of refugees, who are perceived by the current Government of Canada to be “abusing the immigration system” and seeking refuge or permanent residence within our borders when they are in no immediate danger in their native homeland, it is hoped that the number of allegedly false refugee claims will be drastically reduced. The rationale for designating a country as “safe” is largely predicated on historical respect for human rights and whether a nation contains an independent judiciary (“Making Canada’s Asylum,” 2012). Consequently, Bill C-31 contends that certain countries do not generally pose a threat to the safety and security of refugee claimants when this aforementioned criterion is met.
It is hoped that this legislation will create a more efficient immigration process with unfounded DCO refugee claimants returned to their “safe” home country in a more systematic and expedited manner (Designated Countries of Origin, 2013). In addition, it has long been suggested that a more restrictive immigration policy would vastly reduce the economic costs associated with caring for the thousands of refugees residing in Canada under false pretenses (Jiwani, 2011, p.49). Indeed, a major benefit emanating from Bill C-31 is the estimated savings of $1.6 billion in social assistance and education...