No change to refugee policy, Canada’s immigration minister says
Published Tuesday, January 31, 2017 10:41AM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, January 31, 2017 2:22PM EST
OTTAWA -- Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen says Canada isn't going to cancel an agreement with the U.S. that blocks refugees in the country from applying for refugee status in Canada.
Hussen spoke to reporters Tuesday following a news conference by New Democrat immigration critic Jenny Kwan, who urged the Liberal government to pull out of the safe third country agreement. The safe third country agreement, which came into force in 2004, blocks applicants already in Canada or the U.S. from applying for refugee status in the other country.
"All the parameters of that agreement are in place and there's no change at this time," Hussen said following a cabinet meeting on Parliament Hill.
The immigration minister said the U.S. administration has just started allowing entry to the 850 refugees who were on their way to the country when U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order temporarily blocking entry to anyone from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria or Yemen.
"That demonstrates that this is an evolving situation. We intend to be on top of it, continue to update Canadians and make sure we remain engaged with our American counterparts to make sure we have all the implications of the executive order," Hussen said.
The NDP is also calling on the government to remove a limit on a program that allows groups of five people to privately sponsor refugees. The government introduced the temporary program to assist with resettling Syrian and Iraqi refugees, but in December announced it would be capped at 1,000 applications for 2017. Applicants reached the limit last week.
Hussen has also resisted calls to increase the number of group-of-five sponsorships, referring to a backlog of privately sponsored refugee applications.
"Our immigration level plan has an allocation that is historically high for refugees. We intend to maintain that plan, make sure there's room in there for protected persons, government-assisted refugees, [privately sponsored refugees]," he said.
At the NDP's request, MPs will hold an emergency debate tonight on Trump's travel ban.
"There is no question that this ban promotes hate and intolerance. This ban will have a disastrous effect for thousands of innocent travelers and refugees," Kwan said.
"Canada must step up to do its part. We support the government's initial move to provide temporary resident permits to those who intended to return to the U.S. but can no longer do so due to the [ban]. But there is much more that Canada can do and must do.
Amnesty International and the Canadian Council for Refugees are also calling for the government to leave the safe third country agreement.