The Harper government is threatening to entirely scrap proposed reforms to Canada’s refugee system after the Liberals withdrew support for a central feature of the overhaul.

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff has decided his party can’t support refugee reform legislation as currently drafted. That’s despite the fact the government has amended the bill to encompass changes demanded by the Liberals’ own immigration critic.

Ignatieff’s decision to seek yet more changes follows a stormy caucus meeting Wednesday at which Liberal MPs expressed vehement opposition to the bill. They’re particularly dead set against a provision that would expedite the claims process for refugees deemed to be from safe countries of origin.

A spokesman for Immigration Minister Jason Kenney says the safe-country-of-origin provision is essential to the bill and if opposition parties don’t accept it, they’ll forfeit all the other reforms in the bill.

Alykhan Velshi said the government will not accept “poison pill amendments” that undermine its efforts to discourage bogus claimants from safe countries.

Those other reforms include creation of a refugee appeal division, and a 20 per cent increase refugee resettlement from United Nations camps and a 20 per cent funding increase for the resettlement assistance program.

“The government has already accepted amendments negotiated in good faith with the Liberal party’s immigration critic,” Velshi said Thursday. “However, let me be clear. We will not accept poison pill amendments which significantly slow the process or undermine our efforts to disincentivize waves of false claimants from safe, democratic countries.”

Ignatieff’s decision forced the government to postpone clause-by-clause votes on the bill by the all-party immigration committee.

Kenney had hoped the deal he’d struck with Liberal immigration critic Maurizio Bevilacqua would result in speedy passage of the bill before Parliament breaks for the summer later this month.

A spokesman for Ignatieff, Michael O’Shaughnessy, said Bevilacqua “did an excellent job” negotiating amendments.

Nevertheless, O’Shaughnessy said: “After extensive consultation with our caucus, we’ve come to the conclusion that (the bill) is not ready yet and that some issues should be addressed before it should be considered.”

In particular, he cited the safe-country-of-origin provision and another governing applications to stay in the country on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.

SOURCE

Advertisements