July 13, 2012
Kenney’s Refugee Bill Could Deport Young, Mentally Ill
According to a bill introduced on June 20, the government will be able to deport non-citizens who have been convicted of a serious crime that constitutes 6 months or longer for sentencing. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney verifies this as a way to protect Canadian citizens from national criminals who take advantage of the appeal system.
A spokesperson for the immigration minister, Alexis Pavlich claims that many foreign criminals go on to commit more serious crimes after taking advantage of the appeal system. He feels that the tougher bills will help with directing young non-citizens with making the right choices and not committing any crimes in fear of deportation.
In contrast, the head of Canadian Somali Congress, Ahmed Hussen, believes that many of the youths targeted will be those who will make minor mistakes and want the chance to reform, however will not be given that option considering they will be cast as foreign criminals with no right to appeal. He claims that they will be able to sustain a regular lifestyle after serving their time, and feels that it is too harsh for them to face deportation. He fears that the new bill will aid with the deportation of many young immigrant males claiming refugee status, who with making a mistake will be sent back to a country that is foreign to them.
Another change to the bill involves removing supplementary health care benefits to refugees that were previously available to them upon their arrival to Canada, as well as a restriction on discretion on the part of a judge, in considering the nature of the crime and why it was committed. This would include if the non-citizen suffers from any mental illness that may have affected how or why they had carried out the crime.
The new bill may affect families where their children over the age of 16 are able to be detained by officials that deem them as ‘irregular arrivals’. Many medical professionals feel this may be an issue, as refugee claimants that are detained usually have higher levels of mental illness symptoms due to their detention.
Jean Lash, an immigration Lawyer from Ottawa claims that the new bill will attribute to the stigma of mental illness being associated with criminal activity. She states that the problem lies where people are not being treated for their illness, and then continue to commit crimes. Often if these individuals face deportation, they may be going back to a country where mental illness is faced with stigma and punishment.