Canada To Reform Refugee System : Kenney

Canada to reform refugee system: Kenney

Last Updated: Monday, March 29, 2010 | 5:28 PM ET
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Proposed reforms to Canada's refugee system would increase the number of refugees accepted into the country and provide more funding to help them integrate into society and find jobs.

Under the proposed legislation announced Monday, Canada would resettle as many as 14,500 refugees selected by the United Nations annually, 2,500 more than it does currently.

Five hundred of those would be sponsored by the government; the remaining 2,000 would be sponsored by Canadians and permanent residents as part of the private sponsorship refugees program.

“Millions of people have fled violence and persecution to seek refuge outside their home countries and we would like to do more to provide them with protection in Canada,” said Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney.

The reforms will help some of the estimated 10.5 million “refugees living in desperate circumstances around the world and in urgent need of resettlement,” Kenney said.

More funding for the newly settled

The government also wants to increase funding for the resettlement assistance program (RAP) to $54 million annually from $45 million in order to ensure newly arrived refugees are receiving “the support they need to begin their new lives in Canada,” according to a government release.

The RAP provides a monthly income to newly arrived refugees for food and shelter for up to one year with a possible extension for two years for refugees with special needs, or until the refugee is self-sufficient, whichever is shorter.

If approved by Parliament, it would be the first permanent funding increase to the RAP in more than 10 years, and provide benefits at par with provincial social assistance rates.

In total, the new measures would cost the government $111.7 million over five years.

Refugee advocates have long urged Ottawa to increase the amount of funding to help settle newcomers to Canada.

Illegitimate asylum-seekers targeted

Kenney said he will follow up the announcement by tabling far-reaching legislation on Tuesday, targeted mainly at people claiming refugee status after they arrive in Canada.

That package aims to speed up the approval system for refugee claimants who come to Canada looking for asylum by efficiently sorting out legitimate refugees from those who are trying to take advantage of Canada's system.

Under the new legislation, refugee claimants would be sorted into two groups those from democratic countries deemed safe, and those from more dangerous spots.

The safe-country people would be fast-tracked, but would still have access to a full hearing.

Bureaucrats, rather than political appointees, would handle the initial decisions.

And the bill would set up a new, more robust appeal system, allowing those who are turned down to introduce new evidence before they are ejected from Canada.

Kenney wants to get rid of the huge backlog of refugee claimants who often have to wait up to two years before their legal limbo is cleared up. He also wants to close loopholes in the system that allow posers to play the system and stay in Canada for years.