Canada’s refugee resettlement program is in turmoil. The Toronto Star reports thousands of refugee hearings scheduled for this year have been abruptly cancelled so the government can roll out a new system to sort out claims.
The Immigration and Refugee Board is now saying recent asylum seekers can expect to wait between 12 and 24 months for a hearing. The refugee board used to have a 60-day limit to hear cases.
Who would have thought things would get this much out of hand?
Canada’s immigration system started to be stressed after a raging civil war in Syria worsened in 2014. The United Nations put out a call to all member nations to help resettle refugees. The numbers were small then – the UN wanted a combined 30,000 spaces from all its member countries by the end of 2014.
Canada wasn’t quick to act back then. It took just over 1,000 refugees by the end of 2014, missing the 1,300 target set by then Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. When Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau won the 2015 election, he upped the ante and promised to take in 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of that year. He didn’t reach that goal until February, 2016.
But that didn’t end things either.
Canada’s refugee program has now spiralled out of control. There are now more than 40,000 Syrian refugees in the country.
What’s troubling is that while those 40,000-plus refugees and are nestled into various accommodations across the country, there are 30,000 Canadians with no place to call home each night, according to Canadian Homelessness Research Network.
So why is Canada and Prime Minister Trudeau still taking in thousands of refugees while 30,000 Canadians have no place to call home each and every night?
The answer can be found in a sneaky little amendment to the Citizenship Act (Bill C6) which reduced the length of time a person must be physically present in Canada to three years within the five years prior to applying for citizenship. That granted most of the Liberal government’s purchased refugees the right to apply for citizenship and along with that the right to vote in 2019.
In short, this was and still is a vote-buying scheme. You see, Syrian refugees all have postal addresses in Canada, so after the waiting period, they can vote. The tens of thousands of homeless Canadians living without a permanent address can’t. And while many homeless people in this country couldn’t be bothered to vote, you can bet Prime Minister Trudeau’s staff will be reminding those refugees who qualify in 2019 that they should get out and support the party that brought them here.
In Montreal, there’s a community group setting up a special postal office just for street people – so they can get their welfare cheques. So maybe, just maybe they will get to vote.
In all, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen says Canada will welcome over one million immigrants over the next three years and that 300,000 immigrants a year is the “new normal.”
But a 2018 report by the Fraser Institute warns Canada’s immigration system is “deeply flawed.”
“On a per capita basis, Canada accepts six times as many refugees as the United States and four times the average among members of the Convention on Refugees. This is because Canada’’s open welfare system attracts more applicants and because of Canada’s high acceptance rate (46 per cent). The United States accepts 21 per cent. Other large refugee-accepting nations receive an average of 15 per cent. This is not because other nations are turning away legitimate refugees but because Canada’’s system can’t distinguish between legitimate refugees and fraud,” the report said.
And now the problem is right out front as refugee hearings are cancelled.
Jeff Wilkinson is a Senior Politics Reporter at Debate Report covering provincial and national politics, . Before joining Debate Report, Jeff worked on several provincial campaigns including Jack Layton. Jeff has worked as a freelance journalist in Toronto, having been published by over 20 outlets including CBC, the Center for Media and VICE.com.