Blatant Government Disregard for the Rights of Refugees
and Foreign Workers

Perfidious Government Measures to Curtail Refugee Asylum Through Budget Implementation Bill

When in the Opposition in Parliament, the Liberal Party railed against the Harper Conservative government's use of omnibus legislation to pass all kinds of self-serving measures to which the people never consented. It pretended to speak openly and loudly about how wrong the practice was and even pointed to the abuse of the democratic process, intimating the problems this could cause. Now its own repeated use of omnibus legislation, such as the Budget Implementation Bill, shows that its aim was not to uphold any principle which would defend the interests of the polity but to demean the Harper government for self-serving purposes. Canadians are now concerned about the government's self-serving measures which are an assault on the intent of international laws that defend refugees, provide asylum, and protect them as a duty. It is now known that tucked away in the Trudeau government's omnibus bill, Budget Implementation Act, 2019, No. 1, is an amendment to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) which sneaks in unacceptable changes. This shows that the cynicism of this government knows no bounds.

Under current law and international agreements Canada must grant a hearing to those claiming asylum once they have reached Canadian soil, except for those denied that possibility under the Safe Third Country Agreement with the U.S. Under the proposed change, refugee claimants would no longer automatically receive a hearing at the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) after arrival in Canada to evaluate their claim for asylum if they had previously made a refugee claim in another country with which Canada has an information sharing-agreement. At present this appears to include Australia, New Zealand and the UK as well as the U.S.[1] Instead of a hearing, their case would be evaluated through a paper application process to be ruled on by an immigration officer. This change would exclude many of those seeking refugee status from a proper hearing given that they typically would be arriving in Canada via other countries.

Richard Goldman, a lawyer with the Montreal-based Committee to Aid Refugees, points out that the proposed change "would be turning back the clock to before 1985, when the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that all refugee claimants have the right to an oral hearing."[2]

Thousands of people have been forced to flee their country of origin because of economic strife, war or violence (including various unjust wars of aggression and so-called regime change that Canada has participated in), with many determined to seek refuge in Canada. Often, they have first had to travel through the U.S. Once intercepted by U.S. border officials, they make a refugee claim, hoping to be released to continue on to Canada. To gain access to Canadian soil, they are forced to cross irregularly at places such as Roxham Road in Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Quebec, because of the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement. Even without the proposed change in the budget implementation bill, this Agreement already allows Canada to turn back all refugee claimants who arrive from the U.S. at official border crossings.

This part was already established when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the creation of the Ministry of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction on July 28, 2018 and appointed Bill Blair as Minister. Through perfidious sleight of hand, the Trudeau government found a way to link vulnerable migrants with border security and organized crime. By making the irregular crossing of asylum seekers at Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle, Quebec and anywhere else in Canada an issue of law and order, Trudeau turned those seeking asylum into a criminal category, all in the name of upholding fair treatment and rule of law, which is unconscionable. Trudeau's mandate letter to the minister reads in part: "Your goals are to ensure that our borders remain secure and to lead cross-government efforts to reduce organized crime. You will work to ensure Canada's borders are managed to promote legitimate travel and trade while keeping Canadians safe and treating everyone fairly, in accordance with our laws. You will also play a leading role in our efforts to reduce gun violence. [You] are the Minister responsible for our strategy to manage the challenge of irregular migration."[3]

Creation of the Federal Ministry of Border Security and Organized Crime

The new ministry's creation was an attempt on the part of the Trudeau government to establish a causality between organized crime and "irregular migration." The reality is that people are crossing the border irregularly because the Safe Third Country Agreement with the U.S. prevents them from applying as refugees at official border posts. Logically, the solution to this problem would be to cancel this agreement and allow refugees from the U.S. to apply in a regular way.

The Trudeau government rejected this path on October 22, 2018, when Canadian immigration officials determined the U.S. remains a safe third country for asylum seekers. They had the gall to reach this verdict despite the Trump administration's crackdown on what it terms illegal aliens and all migrants for that matter, its separation of families, detention of women and children, and illegal deportations, amongst other crimes the U.S. government is committing. Documents obtained by the Canadian Press through access-to-information show that Canada conducted a review of its Safe Third Country agreement with the U.S. from January to March, 2017.

"Canada's analyses of these U.S. policies were redacted from the documents," the Canadian Press reported. The overall conclusion reached by Canadian officials nonetheless was that the United States "continues to meet the requirements for designation as a safe third country."[4]

This showed that Canada as a land of injustice would become worse, especially with regard to what it called "irregular migration," as if the plight of refugees is ever "regular." This injustice has only deepened with the creation of the Ministry of Border Security and Organized Crime, inspired by U.S. Homeland Security and its Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the dreaded ICE, which many in the U.S. want abolished. ICE is the U.S. federal police agency used by former President Obama and President Trump to terrorize what are called "undocumented" immigrants and to oppress and separate families crossing into the U.S. after fleeing various threats in their home country.

The direction Canada has taken in matters related to security is to integrate Canada's laws and police and intelligence forces to U.S. Homeland Security in the name of meeting current security challenges. This is tantamount to relying on the god's of plague to rid the people of the plague. More, importantly, the measures have completely undermined any basis for sovereignty vested in a Canadian nation-state. Even though Canada was a creation of first the British Empire in the first place and then became subordinate to U.S. imperialism, the significance of the integration which has taken place in the last 20 years are becoming very evident to the public because of the results which are making Canada an active appeaser of and actor in the crimes the U.S. imperialists are committing in their striving for world domination. The working class must constitute the nation by developing its independent thinking on these issues and ensure it takes a stand to defend the rights of all under all conditions and circumstances.

U.S. Smart Border Declaration

The U.S.-Canada "Smart Border Declaration" was signed in December 2001, by Tom Ridge, Director of Homeland Security in the administration of President George W. Bush for the U.S. and by then-Deputy Prime Minister John Manley for Canada.

The declaration includes a 30-point plan with a grandiose title designed to cover up the integration and subordination of Canada border enforcement and security to U.S. Homeland Security: "Action Plan to Enhance the Security of Our Shared Border While Facilitating the Legitimate Flow of People and Goods." The plan has what it calls "Four Pillars": the Secure Flow of People, the Secure Flow Of Goods, a Secure Infrastructure, and Information Sharing; and, coordination in the enforcement of these objectives."[5]

The 30-point Smart Border Action Plan includes:

- biometric identifiers,
- permanent resident cards,
- a single alternative inspection system,
- refugee/asylum processing,
- managing of refugee/asylum claims,
- visa policy coordination,
- air preclearance,
- advance passenger information/passenger name record,
- joint passenger analysis units,
- maritime security and ferry terminals,
- compatible immigration databases,
- immigration officers overseas,
- international cooperation,
- clearance away from the border,
- joint facilities,
- infrastructure improvements,
- critical infrastructure protection,
- integrated border and marine enforcement teams,
- joint enforcement coordination,
- integrated intelligence,
- fingerprints,
- removal of deportees,
- counter-terrorism legislation,
- joint training and exercises.[6]

President Bush and Prime Minister Jean Chrétien met in the fall of 2002 to discuss progress on the Smart Border Action Plan and asked that they be "updated regularly on the work being done to modernize our common border."[7]

The Canada Border Services Agency

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) was created by an order in council on December 12, 2003 and put into legislation as the Canada Border Services Agency Act, on November 3, 2005. The CBSA brings together the border services of the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the Department of Citizenship and Immigration.[8]

The Harper Conservative government announced on August 31, 2006, "CBSA officers at land and marine Ports of Entry, as well as officers who perform enforcement functions inland, will be trained and equipped with side-arms."[9]

According to its website: The CBSA has a workforce of approximately 14,000 employees, including over 6,500 uniformed CBSA officers who provide services at approximately 1,200 points across Canada and at 39 international locations. It manages 117 land-border crossings and operates at 13 international airports. Officers carry out marine operations at major ports, the largest being Halifax, Montreal and Vancouver and at 27 rail sites.

The CBSA investigates, detects, and apprehends violators of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. It conducts investigations of national security cases, and organized crime groups. It represents the interests of the CBSA and Citizenship and Immigration Canada at Minister's Delegate, Immigration Division, Immigration Appeal Division, Refugee Protection Division, and Federal Court proceedings. It processes and examines international mail at three mail processing centres and administers more than 90 acts, regulations and international agreements, many on behalf of other federal departments and agencies, the provinces and the territories.

As part of its responsibilities, the CBSA administers legislation that governs the admissibility of people, detains people who may pose a threat to Canada and removes people who are considered inadmissible to Canada.[10]

On August 10, 2018, iPolitics reported that Canadian refugee advocate groups, including the BC Civil Liberties Association and the Canadian Association of Research Librarians were calling for an independent review of the CBSA in response to the death of a 49-year-old Nigerian man following an altercation with CBSA officers while he was being deported. An altercation took place on board a KLM flight from Calgary to Amsterdam. This is not the first death of a foreign national facing deportation, according to the BC Civil Liberties Association, which says more than 14 foreign nationals have died in CBSA custody.[11]

Many consider the CBSA to employ repressive, dishonest and underhanded measures against asylum seekers. For example, refugees are sometimes summoned to appear on Saturdays for a hearing, often preventing them from showing up with legal counsel. If they become distraught upon learning that they will be deported, they are at times placed in detention as a flight risk. They are presented with the choice of purchasing their own airline ticket back home. If they cannot, the government purchases it for them at a much higher cost, with the CBSA informing them that if ever they wish to return to Canada, their debt must be cleared beforehand.


1. Information Sharing Between Countries.

2. "Radical change to Canadian asylum process wrong, unnecessary," Richard Goldman, Montreal Gazette, May 2, 2019.

3. Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction Mandate Letter, August 28, 2018.

4."Canada deemed U.S. a safe country for asylum seekers after internal review," Teresa Wright, Canadian Press, October 22, 2018.

5. The White House, U.S.-Canada Smart Border/30 Point Action Plan Update.

6. Ibid.

7. Ibid.

8. Order Transferring Certain Portions of the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency to the Canada Border Services Agency, SI/2003-216, Canada (Federal) Statutes and Regulations SI/2003-216; Canada Border Services Agency Act.

9. "Prime Minister Harper announces initiatives to improve Canada's border security," August 31, 2006.

10. Canada Border Services Agency.

11. BC Civil Liberties Association Letter to Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, February 14, 2019.

This article was published in

Volume 49 Number 17 - May 11, 2019

Article Link:
Blatant Government Disregard for the Rights of Refugees : Perfidious Government Measures to Curtail Refugee Asylum Through Budget Implementation Bill - Pauline Easton


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