Advocates decry changes to law for refugees with claims in other countries

Asylum seekers line up to enter Olympic Stadium Friday, August 4, 2017 near Montreal, Quebec.

OTTAWA – Refugee advocates are crying foul over proposed Liberal government changes to immigration laws that aim to keep would-be asylum seekers from entering Canada at unofficial border crossings.

The Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers says the changes would rob vulnerable refugee claimants of fundamental human-rights protections.

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The Liberals are proposing to prevent asylum seekers from making a refugee claim in Canada if they have made a similar claim in certain other countries, including the United States.

The changes were quietly included in a 392-page omnibus budget bill tabled Monday in the House of Commons – a move that is even more upsetting to refugee advocates.

Janet Dench, executive director of the Canadian Council for Refugees, says substantial changes to immigration laws like the ones being proposed ought to be given a full hearing in Parliament, rather than being slipped into a fast-tracked budget bill.

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Dench says her members – including more than 100 Canadian organizations that work directly with refugees and immigrants – are in a state of shock and dismay over the proposed changes, calling them a devastating attack on refugee rights in Canada.

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