Queer refugees already face homophobia and transphobia in the refugee claim process, and if Bill C-31 passes through the Senate, this will be compounded by increasing the likelihood that queer asylum seekers will be rejected.
Bill C-31 passed through the House in June. It aims to fast track refugee claims from countries deemed to be “safe,” with no chance of appeal . This will definitely result in queers being sent back to countries where they will face unjust incarceration, violence, and murder.
Sharalyn Jordan, of the Rainbow Refugee Committee explains the impact of Bill C-31’s safe country list: “A list cannot accommodate the current complexity and flux in protection and persecution for LGBTQ people,” she says. “For example, the Ukraine has an elected parliament, an independent judiciary, and civil society organizations. Based on Bill C-31, it could be designated, and yet its parliament is considering a law banning speech or writing that promotes homosexuality, and neo-Nazis are attacking LGBTQ people in the streets of Kiev.”
The system under Bill C-31 will demand that queer refugees have documentation to make their claim as a queer asylum seeker. This kind of documentation is difficult to compile, especially in the short timelines imposed.
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney insists that this bill will curb human smuggling and make the system more efficient, but we know this bill at its center is a disastrously racist statement of the new Canadian values under the reign of Harper, and refugees–queer and otherwise–will suffer because of it.
The Harper government’s appalling record on refugee rights are also glaringly apparent in the drastic cuts to the Interim Federal Health Program, which take effect June 30. The changes to the program will be deadly–severely restricting access for refugees to medicine and healthcare.