We've seen an increasing amount in the news about Mali lately. A West African country in the grips of a conflict so brutal almost 400,000 people, mainly women and children, have had to flee their homes. With these concerns in mind, Plan has been stepping up our regular programs in Mali to help people through this period in their lives.
Adel Benhmuda is owed an apology from this country, as are his wife, Aisha, and their four children. After living in Canada for several years their refugee claim failed and Benhmuda's assertions that he would be tortured in Libya were dismissed. In 2008 the family was deported. Upon arrival in Libya, Adel was arrested and tortured. What I would like Minister Kenney to do is stand up in the House of Commons, admit that his beloved asylum system made a grave error and most importantly, apologize to the Benhmudas for what their family was forced to go through.
A designated country of origin (DCO) is a country declared as "safe," on grounds that it can provide adequate protection to its citizens and therefore not likely to produce refugees. It also discounts the treatment of some minority groups in so-called "safe" countries perhaps most particularly, the Roma in Europe.
Today, Jason Kenney and the Conservative government announce a controversial list of countries that will determine who does and does not get access to healthcare in this country. This is what the government has facetiously called "public health and safety coverage" illuminating their limited understanding of the field of public health. As a family doctor working with refugees and refugee claimants, the potential impacts of this policy are horrifying. We will no doubt see individuals left with no choice but to allow their health to worsen before seeking services. It seems to me that this is a lose-lose situation.
Bill C-43 The Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act: An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act thus far has passed First Reading. As a criminal defence lawyer working in the multicultural city of Toronto, I will have to quickly ascertain the citizenship of my clients in the first interview and quickly advise them of the potential dire consequences if they are either refugees or non-citizens.
Uprooted from their lives, sometimes in a violent manner, many refugees find themselves in alien lands with little or no knowledge of the local language or culture and (generally) without friends or family to help a lending hand. Most western governments refer to refugees as "clients" or "customers" when processing their applications. There's little or no recognition of the person behind the paperwork. That's where Canada's Romero House comes in.
Toronto, is seen as "some kind of paradise" to Roma in Hungary, who face daily persecution. This brought on a nauseating feeling as I thought of the current government's portrayal of Hungary as a "safe country" for the Roma people, who are themselves portrayed as bogus claimants. I thought of the Roma refugee claimants I have seen in my clinic, who are simply trying to find safety for themselves and their families, like anybody would.
Recently, there has been much discussion about establishing a "safe haven" within Syria's borders to protect the growing number of refugees fleeing the country's civil war, which unfortunately have received little backing. Can we hold that bordering states have a duty to accept more fleeing Syrians? This is a tough call, as the international community is not helping the situation in any certain terms.
Recently, Ottawa introduced Bill C-31, the Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act, and announced it was going to cut temporary health and mental health care to certain categories of refugees. The result was an outcry of support for people who have left everything they own to flee persecution, rape, torture and violence in their home country. Eliminating important supports and services from refugees is nothing short of inhumane. We're speaking out because the issue speaks to the heart of our purpose. We Care.
One of the more pernicious elements of the new Immigration and Refugee Bill C-31 is the so-called "Designated Safe Country" (DSO) rule. This would designate certain countries as "safe" more or less assuring that refugee claims from any such countries would be quickly rejected. The Romas are a prime target.
Just over a decade ago, the UN declared June 20th as World Refugee Day. But in Canada today, we are losing our noble traditions of welcoming refugees and giving them full benefits. Thankfully, there are organizations like the Canada Centre for Victims of Torture that are trying to help out these immigrants in any way they can.
My greatest fear is that one day Canadians, as fair-minded as they may be, will close their doors to other refugees. Bill C-31 -- Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act -- is now in the Senate where it will be studied and debated. Not only is this bill unconstitutional and inconsistent with Canada's international obligations, it will change the face of Canada as we know it.
There are an estimated 12 million displaced people on the planet at this moment and most of them are children. News of this came around the same time as the controversy surrounding Bill C-31, and the way the Harper government wants to crack down on immigration and refugees. But this World Refugee Day, let's be careful and conscious in our assessment of exactly who these people are.
Doctors witness the impact of bad public policy on the health of individual patients and their families. When physicians, health workers and community members take a stand on June 18, we stand in solidarity with those affected and fighting for the right to health for all refugees and refugee claimants. This is about some of the most vulnerable people in our society becoming even more so.
Recently, Jason Kenney has proposed drastic changes to the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP) -- the program that has allowed many refugees to receive health care. These changes aim to deny access to essential medicines for all refugees and claimants, deny basic healthcare to those deemed to come from a "safe country," and are a poor policy decision.
If Bill C-31, "Protecting Canada's Immigration System Act," passes in parliament, Canada will lose its reputation for fairness and human rights and, more importantly, hundreds if not thousands of people's lives will be adversely affected. Refugees would be ineligible to sponsor any immediate family members and these refugees would be second-class people in Canada.