Backgrounder — Safe Streets and Communities Act: Protecting Vulnerable Foreign Nationals against Trafficking, Abuse and Exploitation

As part of its commitment to help ensure the safety and security of Canadians, the Government has introduced comprehensive legislation, the Safe Streets and Communities Act, which includes proposed reforms to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA). These changes would make it possible to deny issuing work permits to applicants who are vulnerable to abuse or exploitation.

Currently, the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism has discretionary authority under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) to permit an individual, who would otherwise be inadmissible, to enter Canada. This helps ensure that the Government of Canada is able to consider each application to enter Canada as a unique situation. However, there is no authority for the Minister to deny work permits to those who would otherwise be entitled.

The Safe Streets and Communities Act proposes amendments to IRPA that would:

  • enable the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism to issue written instructions to immigration officers, giving them the authority to deny work permits for applicants who are vulnerable to abuse or exploitation;
  • ensure the instructions would be based on clear public policy objectives and evidence that outlines the risk of exploitation that applicants could face; and
  • ensure that a decision by an immigration officer to refuse a work permit in Canada would require approval by a second officer.

The written instructions would help identify, for example, those who may be vulnerable to humiliating and degrading treatment, including sexual exploitation. These could include exotic dancers or low-skilled labourers, as well as potential victims of human trafficking.

All ministerial instructions issued under the new authority are to be published in the Canada Gazette and reported in the Annual Report to Parliament on Immigration.

September, 2011

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