Update: Income Security for Refugee Claimants is at risk


Update: The government has included in the Budget Bill (C-43), provisions from Bill C-585 that may lead to refugee claimants being denied access to social assistance. The Budget Bill was introduced on Thursday October 23, 2014. It is making its way very quickly through the House of Commons.

Organizations that want to send strong message to parliamentarians so they understand the potential consequences of the provisions have an opportunity to do so by signing onto a joint letter opposing the sections of C-43 that would affect social assistance for refugees. Deadline for signatures is November 12, 4pm Eastern Time. Organizations are encouraged to sign on as quickly as possible, and can do so by sending an email to isac@lao.on.ca (include name of organization - and name and title of person signing (optional)). OCASI is a signatory to the letter.

The relevant sections (172 and 173) of Bill C-43 are here: http://www.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?Language=E&Mode=1&DocId=6737565&File=176#27

See below for text of the open letter:

The Honourable Joe Oliver, MP, PC
Minister of Finance
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON, K1A 0A6


Open Letter: Budget Bill Restricts Access to Social Assistance for Refugee Claimants


Dear Mr. Oliver,

As organizations that have an interest in ensuring that everyone in Canada has equal access to income security, we are alarmed by the inclusion in your recently introduced Budget Bill C-43 of sections 172 and 173, which amend the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act. These sections are essentially Private Members Bill C-585, which was introduced earlier this year.

Many of our organizations are health and social service agencies and legal and community advocates that work directly with refugee claimants and others with precarious immigration status. The change that would be made to the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act as a result of these provisions would allow provinces to restrict access to social assistance for refugee claimants and others who have not yet been granted permanent residence.

To receive social assistance in any province, one must already qualify through testing and demonstrate great need. To then deny social assistance based on immigration status is to cruelly deny the most vulnerable in our society the crucial lifeline that allows them to survive.

A Federal Court recently described your government's denial of healthcare to refugee claimants as "cruel and unusual". It is disturbing to see another initiative in Parliament that seems to be using legislation to threaten the well-being of migrants attempting to navigate Canada's immigration system.

Fleeing persecution places tremendous stress and burden on families seeking refugee status in Canada. Some of these families suffer from post traumatic stress disorder that can make finding and holding a job difficult without appropriate health care. Work permits take time to be approved and issued, which leaves people with no source of income for months on end. In the interim, access to social assistance is vital to sustain and rebuild lives. Without that source of support, many will be unable to feed, house, or clothe themselves and their families, putting further pressure on already overburdened charities and shelters. We know that poverty leads to poor health outcomes including higher rates of diabetes, heart disease, cancer and depression. We also know that denying basic social benefits, particularly to refugees, contravenes the spirit and the letter of numerous international human rights obligations that are binding on Canada, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. It is unacceptable for our government to implement policies that worsen people's health and deny their fundamental human rights.

We are also concerned that such a significant legislative change is being included in an omnibus Budget Bill, after being introduced as a Private Members Bill. These are inappropriate processes to deal with the critical issue of access to basic social benefits. This is particularly the case since these provisions will have far reaching negative consequences for the health, income security, stability, and successful settlement of very vulnerable people who have come to Canada seeking shelter from war and persecution.

Our organizations call on you to withdraw sections 172 and 173 from Bill C-43. We will be making this Open Letter public and will continue to raise this issue with you, your MP colleagues, and the general public.




(La version française se trouve en bas)

Bill C-585: Information and Action Kit

The information in this Kit has been prepared to raise awareness about Bill C-585 and to help organizations across Canada take action against this Private Member's Bill.

Bill C-585 could have serious implications for the income security of refugee claimants and other people without permanent status in Canada, as it would allow the provinces to restrict their access to social assistance benefits. Introduced by a Conservative backbencher in April 2014, the Bill is scheduled to be debated at Second Reading on September 16, 2014. Taking action right now is therefore critical, as expressing opposition before Second Reading could lead to the Bill being defeated or withdrawn.

This Kit includes the following documents to help you understand and respond to Bill C-585:

  • Backgrounder on Bill C-585: This backgrounder explains what Bill C-585 proposes and the implications for the provinces that would result. It also includes real-life stories of those who would be negatively affected by the Bill. Use the backgrounder to understand what's at stake, and circulate it to your members, networks, and partners to spread the word and get them to take action too.
  • Template Letter to Members of Parliament: Use this template as a guide to send a letter to MPs on your organization's letterhead. We have provided the email addresses for MPs to make this as easy as possible.
  • Lists of MP e-mail addresses: The e-mail addresses of Conservative, NDP, Liberal, Bloc Québécois, Green Party and Independent MPs are provided.

Please take the following actions as soon as possible before September 16 to prevent Bill C-585 from becoming law:

  1. Send a letter to as many MP's as possible asking them to vote against this Bill at Second Reading. Send us a blind copy (BCC) of your letter to isac@lao.on.ca.
  2. Circulate this Kit to your members, networks, and/or any other people or organizations who you think might be interested. Ask them to also send a letter to Conservative MP's opposing this Bill. And ask them distribute the Kit to their members or networks to multiply our impact.
  3. Please let us know which organizations you're sending the Kit to so we can keep track of who has been contacted and who has not. Simply add isac@lao.on.ca to the BCC line of any emails you send. Or send us a quick email saying which organizations you've sent it to, with their contact information.
  4. Post this Kit on your website and explain how to use it. Ask your members to do the same.

Thanks for taking action on this important issue!

Scroll down for links to the Kit in English and French.


Projet de loi C-585 : Trousse d'information et de mobilisation

Le projet de loi C-585 pourrait avoir de graves répercussions sur la sécurité financière des demandeurs d'asile et de tous ceux qui sont en attente d'une résidence permanente au Canada, car il permettrait aux provinces de restreindre l'accès aux prestations d'aide sociale. Présenté par un simple député conservateur en avril 2014, le projet de loi doit être débattu en deuxième lecture le 16 septembre 2014. Il est donc primordial de passer à l'action dès maintenant : une mobilisation d'opposition avant la deuxième lecture pourrait faire annuler ou retirer le projet de loi.

Cette trousse contient de l'information qui vous permettra de mieux comprendre le projet de loi C-585 et d'y réagir :

Informations contextuelles sur le projet de loi C-585 : Cette mise en contexte permet de comprendre la proposition dans ses modalités et les répercussions qu'elle entraîne pour les provinces. Ces informations contiennent également des récits concrets sur ce que vivent les personnes qui pourraient être directement affectées par ce projet. Servez-vous de ces informations pour mieux cerner les enjeux, et faites circuler à vos membres, dans vos réseaux et auprès de vos partenaires pour faire fonctionner le bouche à oreille et susciter leur mobilisation.

Modèle de lettre destinée aux membres du Parlement : Inspirez-vous de ce modèle pour envoyer une lettre aux membres du Parlement avec le papier entête de votre organisme. Vous trouverez une liste d'adresses courriel des parlementaires qui vous facilitera la tâche.

Listes d'adresses courriel des parlementaires : Ces listes contiennent les adresses des membres du Parlement par affiliation politique : Parti conservateur, Nouveau parti démocratique, Parti libéral, Bloc Québécois, Parti vert et Indépendants.

Merci d'entamer les étapes suivantes dans les plus brefs délais, et avant le 16 septembre, pour empêcher que le projet de loi C-585 ne soit voté :

  1. Envoyer une lettre à autant de députés que possible en leur demandant de voter contre ce projet de loi en deuxième lecture. Envoyez-nous une copie conforme invisible (champ CCI/BCC) de votre envoi : isac@lao.on.ca
  2. Faites circuler cette trousse auprès de vos membres, dans votre réseau, ainsi qu'auprès des personnes et des organismes qui pourraient être intéressés. Demandez-leur d'envoyer aussi une lettre aux membres conservateurs pour qu'ils s'opposent à ce projet de loi, et de faire circuler la trousse à leurs membres et à travers leurs réseaux pour amplifier l'effet de la mobilisation.
  3. Tenez-nous informés des organismes auprès desquels vous faites circuler cette trousse afin que nous puissions mettre en place un suivi. Pour ce faire, ajoutez juste isac@lao.on.ca en copie conforme invisible (champ CCI/BCC) pour chaque courriel envoyé. Ou bien envoyez un court message pour nous signaler vos envois en incluant les coordonnées des destinataires.
  4. Mettre en ligne cette trousse sur votre site en expliquant la façon de s'en servir. Demandez à vos membres de faire la même chose. Merci d'agir sur cette question cruciale!

Merci d'agir sur cette question cruciale!


Cette trousse a été élaborée par le Centre d'action pour la sécurité du revenu (CASR), avec la contribution de / This Kit has been prepared by the Income Security Advocacy Centre (ISAC) with the assistance of: :

BC Public Interest Advocacy Centre,
Association canadienne des avocats et avocates en droit des réfugiés
Conseil canadien pour les réfugiés,
Campagne 2000
Legal Assistance of Windsor
Metro Toronto Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic
Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants
Parkdale Community Legal Services
Rexdale Community Legal Clinic
South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario