When I first heard about the Conservatives' Bill C-31, the act that enables the government to strip refugees of their permanent resident status, I almost cried. I was outraged and I felt sad. I cannot imagine the fear and suffering of those being targeted by this bill.
How bad is Bill C-31?
Mazin Helmy Al-Obeidi was a political prisoner under Saddam Hussein. He deserted from Hussein's army and participated in activities against the dictator. For this he spent many years in jail as a political prisoner.
In 1998, he escaped from jail and fled to Lebanon. There, in 2000, the UNHCR, and then the Canadian government in 2002 recognized him as a refugee. He was accepted for resettlement in Canada in 2007 after extensive background checks due to his service in the Iraqi army. He became a permanent resident upon arrival in Canada in November 2007.
After the downfall of Hussein, Al-Obeidi travelled back to Iraq to see his family. He carefully followed all the legal requirements as a Canadian permanent resident. He was last in Iraqi in November 2012.
On Dec. 15, 2012, C-31 changed the Canadian refugee law. The new law is retroactive and within it is the cessation provision. The provision has the effect of striping a refugee of their permanent resident status. Cessation provision is used to target refugees who travel back to their country of origin irrespective of the circumstances at the time of travel.
Although Al-Obeidi had traveled back to Iraq after Hussein was no longer a threat and at the time of travel, there was no such law. The retroactive effect of the cessation provisions of C-31 could cost him his permanent resident status.
Al-Obeidi passed his citizenship test in January 2014. He was expecting to be called to take the citizenship oath, but instead Canadian Immigration launched an investigation and later filed an application to cessate Al-Obeidi's permanent resident status and freeze the processing of his citizenship application.
Faced with the dire consequence of being deported, Al-Obeidi brought his case to the Immigration and Refugee Board. The board dismissed Canada Immigration's cessation application but the government appealed to the Federal Court. It took another year to have the court dismiss Canada Immigration's review application.
Although Al-Obeidi won his case but he has suffered enormous stress due to the uncertainty of his status, not to mention the financial burden of the legal fees he had to incur.
Al-Obeidi may escape deportation but hundreds, maybe thousands, of refugees who have been living in Canada as permanent residents are still living in fear. Baharch Esfand and her daughter are also being targeted. Esfand landed in Canada in 2006 with her husband and daughter as refugees.
Bahareh's husband was found to be at risk in Iran; she and her first child were classified as refugees under the principle of family unity.
Since landed, Bahareh gave birth to her second daughter in Canada. The family is now a well-established self-supporting family of four that has called Canada home for almost a decade. Prior to the implementation of C-31, Bahareh visited her family twice in Iran. When Bahareh filed a citizenship application in 2014, Canada Immigration launched the cessation process to revoke her permanent resident status.
Even though Bahareh's husband and one of their children are Canadian citizens, it does not affect the government's determination to revoke her and her other daughter's permanent resident status. Bahareh brought her case to the IRB and CIC's cessation application was dismissed in 2015. CIC filed an application to the Federal Court to review the IRB decision but was unsuccessful. Undeterred by the defeats, CIC filed an appeal to the Federal Court decision and this case is still in the legal process.
A government internal bulletin has shown that the Conservative government has set an annual target of a minimum of 875 cessations for the Canada Border Services Agency to execute.
As a result, refugees are being investigated, their permanent resident status in jeopardy and cases are ending up in court. Since the cessation process is often triggered by the filing of a citizenship application, the cessation persecution of CBSA has brought fear to the refugee community and many are afraid to apply for citizenship.
The Conservatives' Bill C-31 is not only unjust and inhuman, it is wasting the court and taxpayers' precious resources. The permanent residents that are being targeted are refugees that have already been scrutinized by and recognized as refugees by the Canadian government. These newcomers are grateful to Canada's compassion and generosity. They work hard, contributing to our community.
Bill C-31 has nothing to do with fraud and terrorism. Although the NDP has been advocating to repeal it, the present immigration minister has only promised to review the Conservatives' law.
The Conservatives' anti-immigration/refugee values and actions are simply not in doubt. They were restrained when they were in minority government but once they became majority, our immigration system entered a dark age. They first installed Bill C-31 to target the refugees, then in 2014 enacted Bill C-24 that turned immigrants and their families into second-class citizens.
During that time, the Conservatives scrapped 280,000 skilled worker immigration applications, people who had been waiting for years to have their application processed.
They stripped tens of thousands of foreign students of the opportunity to seek work and stay in Canada. They raised the bar for immigrants to become citizens.
If the Conservatives had won last year and continued as a majority government, I have little doubt that after targeting refugees, first, immigrants would have been the next target to strip off their citizenship.
When the Conservatives were in a minority, they made an effort to reach out to the ethnic immigrant community, but once they formed a majority government, their true face was exposed. Fortunately, they only served one majority term, but the damage is already done.
Follow HuffPost Canada Blogs on Facebook
MORE ON HUFFPOST:
> Immigrants: 7.3 million > Pct of population: 20.7% > GDP (PPP) per capita 2012: $42,734 > Gov’t immigration goals: Maintain Currently, 7.3 million immigrants live in Canada, equivalent to more than 20% of the nation’s total population. As 2011, the Canadian government was one of the few to propose policies that would increase the level of immigration for the purpose of family unification. The level of immigration, more generally, was considered satisfactory in the same year, according to the U.N. In spite of Canada’s exceptionally liberal immigration policies, there has been concern recently over whether Canada’s immigrants are successfully integrating into society. To avoid the potential social tension that could arise from a growing economic difference between immigrants and locals, the Canadian government has restructured its screening process to emphasize factors such as job skills and language fluency. Read more at 24/7 Wall St.
> Immigrants: 7.4 million > Pct of population: 11.6% > GDP (PPP) per capita 2012: $35,548 > Gov’t immigration goals: Decrease Just 11.6% or France’s roughly 65 million residents are international migrants. According to the U.N. Population division, while the French government promoted some policies aimed at attracting skilled immigrants as of 2011, the governments overall attitude toward immigration was generally negative. As a member of the European Union, France is obligated to support the free movement of EU nationals between the EU nations. In recent years, however, the European Commission has criticized the French government for expelling Roma, popularly called Gypsies, from the country. France’s existing immigrant population is older, with nearly 20% at least 65 years of age, compared to just 11.1% globally. Read more at 24/7 Wall St.
> Immigrants: 7.8 million > Pct of population: 12.4% > GDP (PPP) per capita 2012: $36,941 > Gov’t immigration goals: Decrease About 7.8 million million immigrants live in the U.K., up from just under 6.5 million as of 2010. This is despite the U.K. government’s view, as of 2011, that the large influx of foreigners to the country was somewhat of a problem. The government’s policies intended to lower the level of immigration to the country, including high-skilled workers immigration. Only one of the world’s eight largest destinations for immigrants, the United Arab Emirates, had a higher average annual increase in immigration that exceeded the U.K.’s 4.0%. Although the country’s aging population may actually signal a necessity for more immigrants, British Prime Minister David Cameron has stated that immigration has strained the nation’s public services. Read more at 24/7 Wall St.
> Immigrants: 7.8 million > Pct of population: 83.7% > GDP (PPP) per capita 2012: $49,012 > Gov’t immigration goals: Decrease A stunning 83.7% of UAE residents are international migrants the most of any country in the world, excluding only Vatican City. Between 2010 and 2013, the emirates let in more than 4.5 million migrant workers, more than any other nation in the world. The UAE is able to attract workers to come there because the country is extremely wealthy, with an economy driven by oil and finance. As of 2012, the nation’s per capita GDP exceeded $49,000, on-par with that of the U.S. But despite the nation’s appeal for immigrants, the UAE’s government as of 2011 considered immigration to be too high. Additionally, the country has been criticized for the poor living and working conditions faced by many migrant workers. Read more at 24/7 Wall St.
> Immigrants: 9.1 million > Pct of population: 31.4% > GDP (PPP) per capita 2012: $31,275 > Gov’t immigration goals: Decrease Nearly one-third of Saudi Arabia’s population consists of immigrants, while between 2000 and 2013 the number of immigrants rose by an annual average of 4.2% per year, higher than most other nations. Between 2010 and 2013 alone, the number of immigrants to Saudi Arabia rose 24.3% As of 2011, the Saudi Arabian government regarded the overall level of legal immigration as too high and implemented policies to reduce immigration, according to the UN had. Similarly, the government’s policies on the naturalization of immigrants were also considered restrictive. Recent news reports suggest immigration policy in Saudi Arabia has only become more restrictive with new measures implemented to prevent undocumented workers from finding employment. Read more at 24/7 Wall St.
> Immigrants: 9.8 million > Pct of population: 11.9% > GDP (PPP) per capita 2012: $39,028 > Gov’t immigration goals: Maintain Germany, one of the world’s largest economies, is a popular destination for immigrants. Its well-developed infrastructure and top-rate higher education only add to its attraction. Just under 10 milllion of the country’s 82 million residents are immigrants. As of 2011, Germany’s policies reflected approval of the country’s rate of immigration. In 2012, with the eurozone crisis still unabated, a growing number of young workers immigrated from southern Europe to Germany. But Germany has openly recruited high skilled-workers to live and work in the country permanently, especially as the country’s population ages and shrinks, according to Der Spiegel. Unfortunately, many such workers fail to stay for even as little as a year, and since 2010 the number of immigrants to Germany has actually dropped. Read more at 24/7 Wall St.
> Immigrants: 11.0 million > Pct of population: 7.7% > GDP (PPP) per capita 2012: $17,709 > Gov’t immigration goals: Increase More than 12 million immigrants lived in Russia in 2010 and the Russian government was among the few seeking to increase the number of foreigners entering the country. In 2011, the country’s government viewed immigration as too low and oriented its policies towards increasing immigration. However, these policies have failed to attract more net immigrants: as of this year, there are just over 11 million immigrants living in Russia, a decrease of roughly 10% from 2010. Local authorities have not embraced the prospect of single-ethnicity communities for Chinese, Uzbeks, Tajiks and other ethnic groups in Russia ,and have even sought to ban them in some cases, hoping instead to promote integration into Russian society. Read more at 24/7 Wall St.
> Immigrants: 45.8 million > Pct of population: 14.3% > GDP (PPP) per capita 2012: $49,922 > Gov’t immigration goals: Maintain The U.S. is by far the largest destination for immigrants, with more than 45.7 million living in the country, according to the UN. As of 2011, the U.S. government’s policies toward both immigration and emigration remained effectively neutral. However, immigration reform has been especially prominent in Congress this year. This reform is expected to address issues related to illegal immigration, while determining how, and whether, undocumented immigrants should be able to attain citizenship. Considering the U.S. has one the highest per capita GDPs in the world, at nearly $50,000, its appeal to immigrants is fairly straightforward. It is the world’s largest economy, as measured by output, and has the second largest total exports. Also, the U.S. offers well-developed infrastructure and financial markets, as well as quality education. Read more at 24/7 Wall St.