Canada’s immigration laws target migrant children

Written by Alison Griffiths, CNN Briefly defeated in the last two elections, the left-leaning Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) party aims to challenge the ruling Liberal Party in Quebec’s next one. In the process, the…

Canada's immigration laws target migrant children

Written by Alison Griffiths, CNN

Briefly defeated in the last two elections, the left-leaning Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) party aims to challenge the ruling Liberal Party in Quebec’s next one.

In the process, the CAQ government’s approach to child migrants might stand in the way of a reform that’s been promised by the other parties in the province.

On June 3, the Quebec government announced it would tighten its laws to ensure children arriving illegally in the province are not entitled to free care.

The new measures include a requirement that children and their families requesting public assistance have no criminal record, and that adults with criminal records are not eligible to sign documents that would allow such children to be transported to the United States for humanitarian reasons, according to Canadian news site Juste pour rire.

The CAQ will also expand the circumstances in which public assistance is eligible for children who have been granted provisional immigration status, including parents who have been ordered deported and kids being hosted by family members.

No more free care

Following her 2011 election victory, Quebec’s newly-elected Liberal leader Philippe Couillard pledged to improve conditions for foreign children on the island of Montreal, who came from countries without papers when the United States placed limits on immigration from certain Middle Eastern countries in 2011.

Then-minister of human resources Andrea Coderre launched a successful campaign to move and house the children, who had gathered in small tent encampments throughout the city. Coderre joined the social-housing ministry to begin the search for permanent accommodations.

But Liberal and opposition leaders are now concerned the adjustments to the law — introduced by the CAQ government and anticipated to be finalized by early 2019 — will renege on Couillard’s previous promise.

This is because the changes were adopted without Parliament’s approval. Given that the June order in council adopted on Thursday could have been in force as of August 1, 2017, the Canadian Human Rights Commission has launched an investigation into the issue.

Each party candidate was mandated to promise either stricter or more generous protection for migrant children. For Jean-François Lisée, leader of the centre-right Parti Québécois (PQ), that proposal was based on his being the only candidate who opposed the government’s 2010 requirement for proof of a Quebec residency permit before refugee or immigrant status was approved for a child.

Only before 2016 could a child who arrived undocumented legally in Canada be granted conditional immigration status, allowing them to live in private schools.

In 2017, a new regulation obliges asylum-seekers to live and work with provincial authorities for a minimum of 15 days before being granted refugee status. Within a few weeks of arriving, asylum-seekers must be registered with the Canada Border Services Agency.

Comparing asylum processes

The petition (Case No. 329862) addresses the former and dismisses its claims.

“Defendants (i.e. the defendant governments) have established that the level of processing and determination (of refugee claims) is similar for both public-assistance-seeking children of aliens whose families or sponsors have already received such benefit in Quebec and for their non-Irish and very-Orthodox (Jewish) equivalents,” reads the ruling.

“Accordingly, the Court has to conclude that the law and regulations obliging (such children) to receive benefits is not contrary to Canadian and Quebec human rights laws and principles because these laws operate in a similar manner.”

Couillard is expected to address the lawsuit at a press conference in Montreal on Thursday, and will likely reiterate his commitment to the reunification of children with their families and the protection of the rights of immigrant and refugee parents.

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