OCASI submitted the following letter in response to the posting of proposed regulatory changes regarding the reporting requirements for "designated foreign nationals" as required by the recent passing of Bill C-31 into legislation. The posting on the Gazette can be found here.
Manager, Asylum Policy and Programs
Refugee Affairs Branch
Citizenship and Immigration Canada
365 Laurier Avenue W
Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 1L1
September 4, 2012
Following are the comments of OCASI – The Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants regarding the proposed “Regulatory Amendments – Reporting Requirements for Designated Foreign Nationals” that were published in the Canada Gazette Part I on August 4, 2012.
The Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI) is the umbrella organization for the immigrant and refugee-serving sector in Ontario. The Council was formed in 1978 to act as a collective voice for immigrant-serving agencies and to coordinate responses to shared needs and concerns. OCASI is a registered charity governed by a volunteer board of directors. Our membership comprises more than 200 immigrant and refugee-serving organizations located across Ontario.
We would like to take this opportunity to re-iterate our opposition to a number of aspects that underpin the proposed regulatory changes, in addition to our opposition to the regulatory changes themselves.
Opposition to designation of irregular arrivals
As the Council outlined in its brief to the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, OCASI is opposed to the designation of “irregular arrivals” and the differential treatment of asylum seekers based on this designation. The ability to designate groups creates a multiple-tier system of refugee protection that subjects some refugees to different and harsh treatment based on mode of arrival, including detention.
Opposition to five (5) year ban on applying for permanent residency
OCASI is opposed to the five (5) year ban on “designated foreign nationals” who have been granted refugee status in applying for permanent residency. Once an individual has been granted refugee status, they should be treated the same as all other refugees. A five (5) year ban on permanent residency will have severe consequences for these refugees.
They will be unable to reunite with their families for at least five (5) years, which will have negative impacts on their mental health and their settlement and integration process.
Their temporary status will make it more difficult for them to obtain work: it is the experience of current refugee claimants that they have difficulty being able to obtain work, and the work they do find is low-paid and precarious, because employers are distrustful of their temporary status as indicated by their Social Insurance Number.
Finally, their temporary status will make it cost prohibitive for them to pursue any education, training or skill upgrading. These refugees would be required to pay international student fees, which would be cost prohibitive, and they would not be eligible to apply for the Ontario Student Assistance Program.
Opposition to cessation of protected person status
OCASI is opposed to the cessation of protected person status. Once an individual has been granted protected person status, that status should be permanent except in cases of severe criminality. The potential for cessation in addition to the ban on applying for permanent residency for five (5) years will result in debilitating uncertainty in these refugees' lives, which will have long terms negative impacts on mental health, settlement and integration.
Opposition to requirement to report
OCASI is opposed to the requirement that “designated foreign nationals” who have been granted refugee status must report annually, as well as to report any changes in address, employment status, and travel outside of Canada. Once an individual has been granted protected person status, they have legal status in Canada and should be treated as all other individuals with legal status, who are not required to follow similar reporting procedures.
In addition, while at first glance reporting once a year and intermittently based on residency, employment, and international travel may not seem onerous, these reporting requirements will have negative impacts. A requirement to report these details indicates surveillance and mistrust of the refugee, and will only serve to compound and heighten the negative impacts of the differential treatment these refugees will face.
Opposition to specific reporting requirements
The rationale for the proposed regulatory changes states that “Requiring notification of change of address, change of employment status, and travel outside of Canada would assist in identifying circumstances where cessation of refugee protection may be warranted…”.
OCASI is particularly concerned about the requirement to report any change in employment status, and the possibility that a refugee's employment status could somehow lead to the identification of circumstances where cessation “may be warranted”.
In no circumstance should a refugee's employment status have any bearing on the continuation or not of their refugee status.
OCASI is also concerned about how aggregate information on employment status will be used, and in particular that this information could be used to question the state's financial support of refugees who are “designated foreign nationals”. The temporary status of these refugees, in combination with the potential for employers to further distrust them because of the state's own highly publicized distrust, will certainly have negative impacts on their ability to obtain any work, much less adequate work.
In conclusion, the Council strongly opposes the proposed reporting requirements, and we are in particular concerned about the reporting requirement related to employment status.