Interning with Bellissimo Law Group
As part of my field research as an MA Candidate in York University’s Development Studies program, I have been interning with Bellissimo Law Group since late April to learn about the pathways and obstacles to citizenship in Canada. While my research is focused on the Temporary Foreign Workers Program, it aims to situate the obstacles migrant workers experience in the broader context of the limitations imposed upon them via immigration policy.
Interning at BLG has allowed me to see how potential workers engage with the immigration process as I have had the opportunity to work with team leads to assemble applications for the live-in caregivers program. Moreover, working on these applications has allowed me to understand how potential employers interact with the immigration system. My additional experiences with team leads on refugee claims and spousal sponsorships has taught me about the other ways in which people migrate to Canada and the variety of push and pull factors that incite this migration. My experience at BLG has been enriching for me not only as a researcher and student, but as an aspiring legal professional.
Bill C-4 in Violation of Canada’s Human-Rights Obligation?
During the last United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees ministerial meeting, the UNHCR sought to recommit and re-engage the support of member states for key legal treaties, including the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1961 Convention of the reduction of Statelessness. While Canada’s minister of citizenship and immigration; Jason Kenney announced that Canada would resettle slightly more refugees in the future; Canada is making changes to the refugee-determination system which denies asylum seekers a fair hearing. New policies would violate the rights of refugees in Canada to whom they have legal obligations under the Refugee Convention.
In 1951 the States party to the convention agreed not to return refugees to countries where they face serious threats to their lives or freedom. The UN charter’s first article states that one of the purposes of the organization is to promote respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion.
The Canadian Council for Refugees is concerned about the federal government’s Bill C-4, The Preventing Human Smuggles from Abusing Canada’s Immigration System Act. If this bill is passed, some refugees, including refugee children, will be mandatorily detained, without possibility of independent review for a year. The bill would also deny refugees permanent residence for five years, even after they have been accepted as refugees by Canada. During these five years refugees will not be able to bring their immediate family to Canada or travel outside Canada.
The Canadian Council for Refugees, the Canadian Bar Association, the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers and many law professors are in disagreement with the Bill C-4 and believe it would violate Canada’s International human-rights obligation, including the 1951 Refugee Convention and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It would represent betrayal of Canada’s better traditions of welcoming and protecting asylum applicants fleeing persecution in their country
UN Report Says Refugee Detention Up In Canada
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reported that the number of refugees being detained in Canada is continually increasing. The number of refugees detained increased from 4,475 in 2004 to 5,961 in 2008, with an average of 5.4 percent of the detainees being held for at least 90 days.
A study done by Delphine Nakache, a University of Ottawa professor in international development and global studies reveals that inadmissible migrants and failed asylum seekers are being detained in provincial jails alongside the criminal population. Statistics show that about 27 percent of refugees are detained in penal institutions when only 6 percent of this group are suspected of criminality and posing risk or danger to the public. From 2004 to 2008, the percentage of refugee detainees in jail for “Security/danger reasons” has dropped to 4.7 percent from 7 percent in 2004.
Canada Border Services Agency has three immigration holding centers in Toronto, Laval and Vancouver, but uses provincial jails to house immigration detainees when a person shows signs of mental health or behavioral problems.
Spotlight: Cultural Access Pass
The Cultural Access Pass (CAP) was initiated three years ago and is managed by the Institute for Canadian Citizenship. It offers new Canadians the opportunity to visit a variety of cultural institutions and attractions nationwide free of charge.
When it was first created, the program merely included six participating facilities but that number has since grown to over 600 museums, galleries, parks and discovery centers in Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ontario, Alberta, B.C. and the Northwest Territories. That number is expected to reach 1,000 by years end.
To date, there are 33,200 pass holders but that number is expected to inflate dramatically. Information about the program is handed out during every citizenship ceremony nationwide and currently enrolment is 80 citizens a day. The program doesn’t just benefit new Canadians; it also gives participating facilities the chance to learn about newcomers to Canada.
In the words of one wise new Canadian whose family exhausted their 12 month pass, “After that experience, Canada really becomes home because you’re able to appreciate Canada and embrace the diversity and the different cultures that make up Canada…Being Canadian is not about losing your identity, but adding your identity to what is the fabric of Canada.”
Canada Ranked Third Best Country For Women!
Canada has been ranked the third-best country in the world to be a woman in a recent compilation of rankings by Newsweek. It is outranked only by Iceland and Sweden and is the only non-European country in the top seven.
The rankings are based on five factors using a scale of one to ten. These factors include justice, health, education, economics and politics. Canada received an overall score of 96.6 out of 100 but most notably, a complete 100 points for justice!
Working at Bellissimo Law Group has given me the opportunity to communicate with women from all over the world, many of whom are fleeing some sort of violence and persecution generally in their home country. This experience allows me to really appreciate (more than ever before) the significance of that ranking. Earning 100 points for justice means that we are recognized as a society which excels at protecting women from violent crimes and given that woman remain the most persecuted group in the world, that is really something to be proud of.
The Future of Immigration and Border Security
Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) is leading a Temporary Resident Biometrics Project in partnership with the Canada Border Services Agency and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Following the successful conclusion of biometric field trials in 2007, the Project has moved from planning to the implementation phase. Beginning in 2013, the collection of biometrics (fingerprints and a photo) in Canada’s visa issuance process will be introduced.
According to CIC the initiative will bolster the integrity and efficiency of the border by preventing criminals from entering Canada and facilitating the processing of legitimate applicants. The project will bring Canada in line with countries such as Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom in recognizing the value of biometrics in this respect.