Conservatives Work Deal With Bloc, NDP on Refugee Reform

Conservatives work deal with Bloc, NDP on refugee reform

Immigration committee wrings out all-party support for a bill aimed at stopping fraud and speeding up application process

Ottawa—The Canadian Press
Published on Thursday, Jun. 10, 2010 9:24AM EDT
Last updated on Thursday, Jun. 10, 2010 11:08AM EDT

The Conservatives seem to have salvaged their faltering refugee reform legislation by working with the Bloc Quebecois and the NDP to find changes that all the political parties could stomach.

Parliamentarians on the immigration committee hashed out the details into the evening Wednesday, emerging with all-party support for a bill that is substantially different than what was originally tabled this spring.

Generally, the reforms aim to deter fraudsters from playing Canada's system, but also speed approvals for legitimate applicants.

But critics were uncomfortable with several aspects of the original proposals, especially the government's intentions to frown on and quickly dismiss applications from designated safe countries of origin.

Sources say the revised bill will still let the minister designate certain countries as spurious sources of refugee claims, but people who get caught up in that system will have a quick right to appeal.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said last week he thought he had a deal with the Liberals, since he had agreed to most of the changes put forward by immigration critic Maurizio Bevilacqua.

But the Liberal caucus then balked at the package, and key refugee advocates as well as the Canadian Bar Association came out against it too. Mr. Kenney threatened to withdraw the legislation completely if any more major changes were introduced.

With the Liberals in disarray, Mr. Kenney negotiated with the other parties instead, both of which wanted to see key reforms go ahead as fast as possible.

Sources say the Bloc and the NDP found ways to make the process even faster than Kenney had originally proposed, but also found ways to make it fairer.

Canada will finally get a refugee reform package that is both fast and fair, NDP critic Olivia Chow said.

When the refugee reform package is fully implemented, hopefully genuine refugees won't have to wait so long to receive status in Canada and to be united with the children living in dangerous camps overseas.