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C-31 Reforms Snub Refugees

Canada refuses to do its part for global asylum-seekers

by Wairimu Gitau


Kon Marach is a refugee from South Sudan. He smiles and looks away. He briefly fiddles with his phone and says he is not too conversant with Bill C-31, known as Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act.

Though uncertain of the details, Marach has heard C-31 will have a detrimental impact on refugee claimants. “I am thankful I am still alive and have a chance to study,” 23-year old Marach says.

He’s in his third-year studying business at Carleton University.

Looking his interviewer straight in the eyes, Marach says, “we had to dig trenches near our houses to hide out during shelling and shooting as the government military fought the rebel group.” He takes me down a painful memory lane. A feared militia group called muarleen was vicious in abducting children and killing young men.

Marach’s father organized for his departure to the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya. Life at the camp, he says, was “crap.” His most tragic moment came when he was 14. “There were ongoing rifts between the locals and the refugees. With high levels of poverty, unemployment, lack of food and shelter, the locals accused the UN of providing food for encamped refugees whilst they were going hungry. One night, the locals raided a tent and this alerted the security guard, who fired a shot. My friend, Tong Anei was hit, and he passed away. It was tragic, sad.” He pauses.

Marach hopes to go back and help rebuild his country torn apart by a two-decade civil war. As a refugee, he understands how important his entry to Canada was.

But Jason Kenney, Canada’s minister of citizenship, immigration, and multiculturalism, has been scheming against asylum seekers for some time now. In mid February, Kenney tabled Bill C-31, which was rammed into law under the Conservative majority House of Commons in June 2012.

Warren Creates, an immigration lawyer in Ottawa, argues that the government intends to keep away asylum seekers and says that the Conservatives are “sending a signal to the world and to those who might be inclined to come here to make a refugee claim that the bar is much higher, the barrier much greater, and that it is unlikely that even if they come to Canada that they will be treated with the same fairness as their relatives and community members who came before them.”

The Tories have reduced the amount of time allotted to gather information needed to file successful asylum applications from 28 to 15 days. They have reduced the hearing period of cases from 90 days to 30 and 45 days for Designated Country of Origin (DCO) and non-DCO, respectively.

Critics say this means refugees can be kicked out at a much faster rate as they may not have sufficient time to fill in the new and lengthier Basis of Claim form that has replaced the Personal Information Form.

Francisco Rico-Martinez, a co-director at FCJ Refugee Centre in Toronto and a strong opponent of the bill, calls the reforms discriminatory and a double standard as the Conservatives aim to raise the number of temporary workers in the country at the expense of refugees. “The former policy in the BRRA [Balanced Refugee Reform Act, amended under Bill C-31] allowed refugees to stay in Canada somehow. Kenney does not want refugees, in practical terms he does not want poor immigrants.”

A former Ugandan refugee and current Liberal senator, Mobina Jaffer, told the House of Commons in June that such a mandate is onerous. “The unfortunate reality is that gender-based persecution occurs even in countries deemed to be safe. Under this bill, if a woman faces gender-based persecution but comes from a country that the minister has designated to be a safe country, her claim could be denied.”

In a phone interview with the Leveller, Jaffer expressed outrage that the bill allows for the detention of young children and refugees termed “irregular arrivals.”

“When I came as a refugee, I was welcome. But now when a new refugee comes they will not have the same reception. My major and biggest concern is we’ll be sending especially young African boys and girls to prison when they come here without documentation.” In both examples, Jaffer adds that the reforms violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and article 34 of the 1951 Refugee Convention.

Refugees in Canada come through one of three channels: self-sponsored refugees, sponsored refugees (including many like Marach from East African refugee camps), and refugees who come as irregulars. This includes groups such as the Tamils who fled genocide from Sri Lanka in 2010.

James Milner, an associate professor in the Political Science department at Carleton University, points out that the changes to Bill C-31 are a continued response to a boat load of 492 asylum seekers from Sri Lanka who arrived on board MV Sun Sea in August, 2010. Milner calls these reforms “hypocritical.”

“Canada was saying we are being overrun by asylum seekers,” and “At exactly the same time, Kenya was receiving tens of thousands from Somalia. And Canada was saying to Kenya, ‘you have an obligation to keep your borders open to provide protection to these people who are in need.’”

As the reign of Stephen Harper enters its seventh year, his party’s stain on Canada’s immigration and refugee policies are more visible than ever.

This article first appeared in the Leveller, Vol. 5, No. 4.


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Color Priinting Tips

Artists use color in many different ways. The colors that we see are light waves reflected or absorbed by everything around us. In nature, a rainbow is actually a white light that is broken apart by the moisture in the air.

The nineteenth century was the turning point for the development of color illustration. At the start of the century, books with colored plates were hand colored by the artist using techniques that dates back to the Renaissance. A hundred years later, the steam driven printing press and the photo reproductive techniques took printing out of the hands of the artist and introduced processes which would be used until the computer revolution of today. article

Today’s color printing uses new technologies and techniques such as digital lithography. Color printing today is generally handled using offset lithography. This printing process coats a rubber drum with the color and water necessary to produce the image. The image is then transferred to the offset drum. From the offset drum the image is transferred to the paper or other printable medium. This process makes it possible to transfer color photographs easily.

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