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NAC's response to the Immigration Legislative Review Report.pdf (528.11 kB)

NAC's response to the Immigration Legislative Review Report: Not Just Numbers: a Canadian Framework for Future Immigration

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posted on 2023-10-17, 14:50 authored by Sedef Arat-KoçSedef Arat-Koç

The National Action Committee on the Status of Women (NAC) agrees that there are several problems with the Immigration Act in Canada and that it needs to be changed. Indeed, individual women's groups and NAC have over the years made several specific recommendations to deal with problems of equity and fairness in the Immigration Act, immigration policies, and immigration process. When the Canadian government initiated the process of review and change of the Immigration Act (of 1978, which is still in effect), NAC hoped that this process would be based on such principles. NAC is disappointed, however, to observe that The Immigration Legislative Review report, Not Just Numbers: A Canadian Framework for Future Immigration, the document which is expected to guide this process, is very much a product of anti-immigrant, anti-refugee, and racist sentiments. We are concerned with the cynical attitude towards immigrants, especially those immigrants coming from non-traditional source countries, which colours the spirit and the tone of the document.

The Immigration Legislative Review report recommends a centralized decision-for both overseas and inland refugee claims processing (Recommendation 83). Currently, there are two different sets of criteria applied to refugee claims. Whereas the inland system focuses mostly on the need for protection, overseas claims equally takes into consideration the likelihood of the applicant to adapt successfully in Canada. The vast majority of inland claimants are men while the pool of overseas claimants (residing in refugee camps) are primarily women and children. Women and children are less likely than men to afford the means to travel to Canada to make an inland claim, and are also less likely than men to meet the criteria of the, "likelihood of successfully adapting to life in Canada," used in overseas claims. The report criticizes the latter criteria as it "gives priority to the most economically viable of the world's refugee population rather than those most in need." The elimination of the "adaptation" criteria (Recommendation 88) may potentially benefit women and children. NAC is in support of such a move.

In 1993, Canada took leadership in the world for development of more inclusive criteria that included gender-based persecution. While the Immigration Act was not amended to officially change the definition of who was a refugee, The Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) adopted the "Guidelines on Women Refugee Claimants Fearing Gender-Related Persecution." While the IRB Guidelines have been limited in their application as they only dealt with inland claims, they have been at least a symbolic first attempt to recognize gender-related persecution. The Immigration Legislative Review report makes no mention of the Guidelines and what would happen to them with the elimination of the IRB, as proposed. The absence of any references to gender-related persecution is particularly interesting because Chapter 7 dealing with refugee protection, is probably the only part of the report acknowledging gender inequalities in the system. We question why the report would, on the one hand, demonstrate gender sensitivity by justifying the unification of the refugee claims processing on the grounds that the present system creates inequalities because of gender differences in who can gain access to inland processing, and on the other hand, be totally silent on other issues regarding gender bias in refugee-determination criteria. 

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