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Human smuggling bill about jailing refugees and migrants

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Immediate Release
June 20, 2011, World Refugee Day

Human smuggling bill about jailing refugees and migrants
Migrant Justice Activists hang Anti-Bill C-4 banner on World Refugee Day

Toronto - Shortly after 8am on World Refugee Day (June 20), migrant justice activists from No One Is Illegal - Toronto hung a 40ft x 10ft banner off the side of a bridge overlooking the QEW in downtown Toronto reading "Canada Jails Refugees" to shed light on hidden provisions within Bill C-4. Photos of the banner are at

Widely criticized for targeting refugees, Bill C-4 (formerly Bill C-49) gives immigration officers power to arrest and detain any foreign national or permanent resident (not just refugee claimants) on suspicions of criminal activity [1]. Bill C-4 also penalizes designated foreign nationals by prohibiting them from applying for permanent resident status for five years from the determination of their application for refugee protection [2]. During this time the Immigration Minister may be able to deport the refugees that have been granted status.

"Today as people around the world celebrate the 1951 Convention on Refugee Rights, the Conservative government will try and push through a law in direction violation of this Convention," says Mohan Mishra of No One Is Illegal - Toronto. "Kenney and Toews keep saying that this Bill is about human smugglers, yet Bill C-4 contains provisions to jail anyone that an immigration officer is suspicious of, no proof is required. Bill C-4 is simply mass-arrest legislation."

In 2008-09, Canada Border Services Agency jailed 14,362 people for immigration reasons at a cost of $45.7million [3]. Under Bill C-4, with arbitrary powers of detention, these numbers could greatly increase. The Canadian Bar Association has stated that, "Extending the authority to detain, particularly for permanent residents, is a creeping erosion of civil and legal rights. There is no apparent link of these provisions to the issue of human smuggling or any attempt to limit its application to circumstances of human smuggling. The expanded detention authority applies to all permanent residents and foreign nationals." [1]

"Many Canadians believe that Canada has a fair and generous refugee system, but the fact is that Canada already jails and discriminates against thousands of migrants and refugees", added Yogi Acharya of No One Is Illegal - Toronto. "Under Bill C-4, more people will get jailed and refugees, even after they have been granted refugee status, will be deported at a Minister's whim. If this Bill passes, Canada will no longer have a refugee system, it will have a system of temporary asylum where people can be deported at any time."

Under the current Refugee Act (Bill C-11), asylum seekers from countries deemed ‘safe’ receive differentiated treatment. Human Rights Watch Canada says that this provision "shortcut[s] fairness in the name of efficiency" [4]. Just two months ago, in April, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights found Canada in violation of the American Declaration on Human Rights for summarily returning refugee claimants to the United States without assessing their case on individual merit[5]. Under C-4, refugee claimants, even after a favorable decision on their refugee application, will have to wait five years to apply for status. During this time they will not have access to full citizenship right or travel and could be summarily deported.

The Preventing Human Smuggling Bill C-4 has been condemned by Amnesty International [6], the Canadian Council for Refugees [7], the Canadian Bar Association, No One Is Illegal and over 100 other organizations across the country [8]. The Bloc Quebecois, the Liberal Party and the NDP all rejected the Bill when it was first introduced.

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For more information:
Mohan Mishra | 416.270.8947 |
Yogi Acharya | 647.764.0488 |


[1] Canadian Bar Association submission on Bill C49, Nov 2010:
[2] Bill C-49, two classes of refugees, Nov 2010:
[3] CBSA Detentions and Removal Program Evaluation study, Nov 2010:
[4] Human Rights Watch, open letter to Stephen Harper, May 2011:[6]
[5] Amnesty Canada, Canada Violated American Declaration on Human Rights, Apr 2011:
[6] Amnesty Canada, Anti-Smuggling Legislation Violates Refugee Rights, Oct 2010:
[7] Canada Council of Refugees, reintroducing anti-refugee bill deplored, Jun 2011:
[8] No One Is Illegal - Toronto, partial list of organizations opposing Bill C-49, Nov 2010: