What Does Morneau's Proposed Budget Mean for Asylum Seekers?
Last month, Canada’s Minister of Finance Bill Morneau proposed a new financial strategy to support Canada’s asylum and refugee system, alongside a stricter policy on irregular asylum seekers. This strategy, incorporating spending of $1.18 billion over the next five years, is an effort to expedite the processing of the influx in asylum claims and drastically improve border security.
Minister Morneau stated that the government is ensuring Canada’s asylum system is governed by the rule of law in a fair and effective manner, as it should be.
Every year, Canada processes approximately 50,000 asylum claims. Critics have said that the government is not sufficiently equipped to handle this many applications, and that the system lacks fundamental resources.
This, coupled with xenophobic rhetoric and propaganda painting a picture of foreigners flooding the borders and occupying resources, has raised concerns that the federal government is now attempting to address.
The $1.18 billion in federal budget spending is divided into several funnels: $452 million for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada; $382 million for the Canada Border Services Agency; and $208 million for the Immigration and Refugee Board.
"That money was put there in order to ensure we have appropriate border security approaches but also improve the processing speed for immigration Canada," Morneau said.
"So if someone comes across the border [and] claims asylum, we want to make sure we process that quickly so they either are moved back to where they came from, if it's inappropriate, or in the case where they are legitimately seeking asylum, we deal with them in a compassionate and rapid way."
Furthermore, due to complaints about border agents and cases of alleged behaviour, attitude, and abuse of power towards asylum seekers, the government will spend $24.4 million over five years to expand the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission, a new division of the Canada Border Services Agency. This will act as an independent review body for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police as well as the Canada Border Services Agency.
To help relieve pressure and to prevent these issues from arising in the future, the government plans to hire three more Federal Court judges to bring the total to 39. It will also use the funds to expand a pilot project created to facilitate the pre-hearing process for refugee protections claims.
While the mandate of the 2019 budget strategy is aimed at positively impacting Canadian borders and asylum claimants, it remains to be seen whether the intended objectives will be achieved and the asylum claims will be processed in an efficient, fair and timely manner.