Canadian International Obligation to Aid Asylum Seekers Still Strong Despite New Strategy
Over the years, Canada has prided itself on being a welcoming, inclusive nation that fosters community and positive attitudes towards people from all walks of life. However, the new $1.18 billion border strategy set forth by the federal government may compromise that reputation.
The new 2019 federal budget has line items to assist in strengthening the Canadian border, ensuring irregular crossings are managed respectfully and efficiently and to help expedite the influx in asylum claims. But the question still stands – is this an effective way to handle these issues and are we still standing by our fundamental, international obligation towards asylum seekers?
Canada has only recently started to face challenges with irregular migration, unlike other Western democracies who have been dealing with these issues for years. With such little experience, the federal government is “finding its footing” with regards to adequately dealing with these challenges while attempting to maintain the public’s confidence in the asylum system.
In order to ensure the fairness of the asylum system in Canada, all claimants must continue to receive an oral hearing before an independent tribunal and also be afforded the right to appeal a negative decision. In other words, efficiency should not trump procedural fairness.
In addition, all individuals who are facing persecution should continue to be afforded the right to make a refugee claim in Canada, irrespective of whether they have previously filed a refugee claim (which has not been decided) in another country. So long as a person has not been granted refugee status, he/she should be able to seek protection in Canada. This is critical in ensuring Canada fulfills its role in the international asylum issue.
This is the delicate balance the Canadian government faces – honouring our international obligations while effectively managing the asylum system and remaining mindful that public opinion is impressionable, is easily swayed, and can have a negative impact on these current issues. However, the government ultimately cannot base important policy and legislative decisions on public opinion. The principles and justifications underlying a given policy must not be compromised for political reasons.