This short month with the longest day in the year is unfolding with a packed legislative and policy agenda at all levels of government. From the City of Toronto (where OCASI’s offices are located) to Queen’s Park to Parliament Hill, announcements from our elected leaders have been raining down from on high: Most of it good.
Earlier this month the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) released the report Under Suspicion: Research and Consultation Report on Racial Profiling in Ontario. It is chockful of personal examples of how racial profiling tears at the soul of those profiled, reinforces the sense of otherness that many who are racialized experience, and undermines the social cohesion we so desperately need if this Canadian political project of diversity and inclusion is to be a success.
This year OCASI, Its members and allied organizations and groups decided to declare April Refugee Rights Month. The Anniversary of the Singh decision which falls on April 4th is a time to celebrate the Supreme Court of Canada’s ruling that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects the fundamental rights of refugees – that in Canada refugees too have a right to life, liberty and security of persons.
The weather outside as I write this belies the fact that it is mid-March and we are less than a week away from the official start of Spring. But the frigid cold temperatures we have experienced in the past week did not deter the tens of thousands of women, children and male and non-binary allies who showed up to celebrate and protest across the province as we observed International Women’s Day.
OCASI has launched an Access to Justice project in partnership with Colour of Poverty-Colour of Change (COP-COC), Metro Toronto Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic, Rexdale Community Legal Clinic and South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario, as well as COP-COC.
The Canadian Senate has adopted a motion to amend Bill C-6 (the Citizenship Bill) to increase the requirement of language and knowledge test for citizenship from age 55 to 60. The Bill is almost at the final stage of becoming law, but is yet to receive final approval in Parliament.
Through The Professional Education and Training Project (PET), OCASI aims to make funding available to organizations for group in-house professional development training to improve settlement services by addressing gaps in skills, knowledge and attitudes of service providers within each participating agencies. The project also provides settlement practitioners access to online e-learning course.
OCASI and many others across Canada are calling on the Canadian government to suspend the Safe Third Country Agreement with the US. Asylum seekers that enter Canada from the U.S. through regulated border points are subject to the Agreement, and may not be allowed to stay to make a refugee claim. Many Canadians are concerned about the health, safety and well-being of asylum seekers who are crossing the border into Canada at unregulated points, while others mistakenly believe they are breaking the law and should be stopped.
Refugee Rights Month is commemorated on April 4 every year in Canada to bring attention to the advances made in the protection of refugee rights in Canada as a result of the Supreme Court decision (the ‘Singh’ decision) in 1985. Join us this year to commemorate the 32nd anniversary of the 'Singh Decision'.