Contact: Angela Marie MacDougall

Executive Director,

Battered Women’s Support Services

604-808-0507 •

May 17, 2012

Bill C-31 Re-Victimizing Women Refugees and their Children

(Vancouver, Coast Salish Territory) Bill C-31, "The Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act," seeks to implement a series of new changes to immigration policy and procedure that are going to severely impact refugees escaping from violence and persecution, particularly women, queer and trans-identified individuals, and their families.

Under Bill C-31 impossible time frames will be imposed for refugees to have their claims assessed. Within 15 days of arrival asylum-seekers will be expected to arrange legal council, interpretive services, and present their personal experiences before the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB). "Lawyers who are willing to take aid for refugee claims are very few," says Angela Marie MacDougall Executive Director of BWSS, "They will be incredibly overburdened."

Designations of certain countries as "safe" will result in women being sent back to the violence they just left. “These provisions fail to recognize that women may experience systemic discrimination and unchecked gender-based violence in countries that are otherwise considered safe,” says Barbra Schlifer Clinic Executive Director, Amanda Dale. “We regularly work with women who have been abused, without state protection, in the home countries they fled, such places as Portugal, St. Vincent and Mexico, to name but a few."

Alarmingly, there is no provision preventing the detention of children in Bill C-31. Children and youth under the age of 15 will be detained with their parents, or turned over to foster care, forcing either incarceration or the breaking apart of families.

Additionally, refugees who are arbitrarily designated as "irregular arrivals" by the Minister, will face immediate indeterminate imprisonment.

For those who manage to get through this harrowing process and somehow attain status, Bill C-31 will see to sustained impermanence. Status will remain conditional and may be revoked on any number of subjective conditions, determined by the Minister – ensuring those who actually manage to receive refugee status in Canada will not be able to trust in the stability of that status.

Also important to note, the Ministry plans to reassess successful cases after 5 years of obtaining status, to determine whether the country refugees needed asylum from, has become a so-called "safe" country, thus creating further uncertainty with the very real probability of being sent back.

Bill C-31 will ensure further traumatization of highly vulnerable women and children fleeing persecution and seeking safe asylum in Canada. Among its many issues, it will see expedited processes that will force deportation and unfair assessments of persecution, cause families to break apart, criminalize victimized persons through detention, imprisonment of youth and children, as well as undermining the nature of safety sought with threats and the added possibility of deportation should status actually be attained.

Battered Women Support Services continues in its ongoing opposition to this bill and stands in solidarity with The Barbra Schlifer Clinic, METRAC, and LEAF, who have recently issued a press release on this issue and have also presented their concerns about the Bill to Commons Committee on Bill C-31, which concluded hearings last week.

Link to The Barbra Schlifer Clinic, METRAC, and LEAF:

Links to BWSS articles covering related issues: