Backgrounder — Cracking down on Human Smugglers who Abuse Canada’s Immigration System

While Canada has a proud history and tradition of welcoming immigrants who wish to start a new life here, Canada’s generous immigration system has become a target for human smuggling operations. We must take action to end the abuse of Canada’s immigration system by human smugglers.

To do so, we must have laws and measures in place that will dissuade individuals from coming to Canada by way of an illegal human smuggling venture as opposed to well established means of seeking immigration status or refugee protection in Canada.  

Under the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act, individuals who illegally enter Canada as part of a designated irregular arrival would face the following action:

  • If an individual is successful in obtaining protected person status, they can be re-assessed within five years to determine whether they still need protection or can be returned to their country of origin. During this five year period:
    • the individual would not be provided with a refugee travel document and would not be able to apply to immigrate to Canada through other means. As a result, they would not be eligible to sponsor family members into Canada or become Canadian citizens;
    • the individual could be subject to in-person reporting to immigration officials to determine if they have indeed returned to their country of origin; and
    • the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism may apply to have their continued need for protection reassessed if conditions change in their country of origin;
  • If an individual is unsuccessful in obtaining protected person status, they would not have access to an appeal at the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB), could be removed from Canada, and would be barred from applying to immigrate to Canada through other means for a five-year period; and
  • The individual would not have access to a health and benefits package that is more generous than what Canadians receive from the government.

The new legislation also proposes that individuals coming to Canada as part of an irregular arrival would be ineligible to apply for permanent residence for a period of five years. This differs from current practice whereby those determined to be Convention refugees or persons in need of protection may apply for permanent residence. As these individuals would not be able to become permanent residents, they could not sponsor family members.

During this period, the Minister could apply to the Refugee Protection Division (RPD) at the IRB to re-assess the individuals’ country conditions to determine if they should return to their country of origin or to conduct an in-person interview to determine if they have made trips back to their country of origin and are no longer at risk there.

We are also proposing the following restrictions: individuals would not be able to travel outside of Canada unless authorized by the Minister in exceptional circumstances; and because these individuals would not be able to become permanent residents during this five year period, they would not be able to sponsor members of the family class.

Processing at the Immigration and Refugee Board

Under the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act, those who arrive via a designated irregular arrival would have access to only a hearing at the RPD at the IRB. In the event of a negative decision, they would be ineligible for an appeal to the new Refugee Appeal Division. While they could apply to the Federal Court for judicial review of this decision, they would not benefit from an automatic stay of removal from Canada while this application was being considered.

Limited benefits

Canadians enjoy health services that are among the best in the world. However, it is unfair that those who have not followed the rules be rewarded for their actions by having access to more generous benefits than the average Canadian receives. The proposed measures would ensure that the health benefits for those who arrive illegally in Canada are not more generous than what Canadians receive from the government.

The Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP) focuses on refugee claimants (including failed refugee claimants who are awaiting removal), Convention refugees, and others in refugee-like situations. IFHP provides some temporary coverage until applicants qualify for provincial or territorial health insurance.

Those who arrive as part of a designated irregular arrival, once they are released from detention, would only receive coverage for basic health care services and not for supplemental health care services, although exceptions may be made for specific circumstances. This would be implemented after passage of the Bill through changes to the IFHP.

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