Bill C-585 seeks to deny access to social assistance to refugee claimants. This is a crucial lifeline for individuals who have often escaped war and persecution when newly arrived. Frequently, refugee claimants cannot access work permits for months on end, and rely on social assistance to survive. We cannot support such a cruel policy.
As individuals that have an interest in ensuring that everyone in Canada has equal access to income security, we are alarmed by the introduction of your Private Members Bill C-585. Bill C-585 would allow provinces to restrict access to social assistance for refugee claimants and others who have not yet been granted permanent residence.
To receive social assistance in any province, one must already qualify through testing and demonstrate great need. To then deny social assistance based on immigration status is to cruelly deny the most vulnerable in our society the crucial lifeline that allows them to survive.
A Federal Court recently described your government’s denial of healthcare to refugee claimants as “cruel and unusual”. It is disturbing to see another initiative in Parliament that seems to be using legislation to threaten the well-being of migrants attempting to navigate Canada’s immigration system.
Fleeing persecution places tremendous stress and burden on families seeking refugee status in Canada. Some of these families suffer from post traumatic stress disorder that can make finding and holding a job difficult without appropriate health care. Work permits take time to be approved and issued, which often leaves people with no source of income for months on end. In the interim, access to social assistance is vital to sustain and rebuild lives. Without that source of support, many will be unable to feed, house, or clothe themselves and their families, putting further pressure on already overburdened charities and shelters. Poverty leads to poor health outcomes including higher rates of diabetes, heart disease, cancer and depression – it is unacceptable for our government to implement policies that worsen people’s health in this manner.
We are also concerned that such a significant legislative change, one that would amend the fiscal relationship between the Federal and Provincial governments, is being presented through a Private Member’s Bill. It is well known that Private Member’s Bills undergo less scrutiny compared with Government Bills and that they are meant to tackle issues of regional importance.
Maybe we need to start a counter-petition.