Jason Kenney Trumpets Hard-Fought Immigration Reform

Jason Kenney trumpets hard-fought immigration reform

By Gloria Galloway
The Globe and Mail (Canada), June 29, 2010

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney took time Tuesday to do a little crowing about his refugee-system reform, which with the help of opposition parties is one of the few standalone government initiatives that will be passed into law this session.

The Senate gave the Balanced Refugee Reform Act the thumbs up on Monday night, and now the bill is off to Rideau Hall for royal assent.

'These reforms would lead to faster protection for victims of torture and persecution, and faster removal of failed asylum claimants including those who try to abuse Canadas generosity,' Mr. Kenney told a crowd at the Catholic Immigration Centre of Ottawa the same place he unveiled his proposals at the end of March.

Getting the legislation through the House of Commons took some collaboration with the NDP and the Bloc after an initial deal with the Liberals fell through. In the end, the bill gave no party everything they wanted but left everyone mostly satisfied.

When the law comes into effect, it will allow the government to fast-track the claims of refugee-seekers from countries that are presumed to be safe.

Rejected claimants, like all others, will be able to appeal a decision to a new division of the Immigration and Refugee Board. But their applications will go to the top of the pile, and be decided faster within 60 days for the first hearing and 30 days for appeals to discourage people from those countries from applying in the hopes of dragging out appeals for years.

The measure is aimed at curbing spikes in claims from places like Mexico and Hungary, which have democratically elected governments that generally adhere to international treaties on human rights.

Mr. Kenney said Tuesday that the reform will save taxpayers an estimated $1.8-billion over five years because failed claimants will no longer be able to stay in Canada for extended periods of time while their case sits unattended.

The Immigration Minister also announced the launch of a summer tour to highlight the planned increases in resettlement of refugees in Canada.

'Throughout the summer, I will be asking groups within Canadian civil society, such as faith-based organizations, to redouble their efforts to help provide new homes for refugees who are victims of torture, ethnic cleansing and persecution,' he said.

Mr. Kenney said refugees from Iraq who are fleeing persecution, and gays, lesbians, and dissidents who have had to flee Iran, are among those groups who could benefit from the planned resettlement increase.