Pat Watson’s February 23, 2012 column (For federal government, ‘refugee’ is a slur) is ironically filled with outrageous slurs.
Ms. Watson claims that in championing Bill C-31, the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act, I have described refugees as “scammers”. I have never said, or thought, that refugees are scammers. In fact, I have always believed that Canada has a moral obligation to protect refugees, and that this is a noble Canadian tradition that is deeply rooted in our history. I do, however, believe that we should focus our resources on providing protection to bona fide refugees while deterring false asylum claimants from abusing Canada’s generosity.
That is why our government is actually increasing by 20 per cent the number of resettled refugees that we will welcome each year. With this increase, we will receive more refugees per capita than any other developed country in the world. We are also increasing the Refugee Assistance Program by 20 per cent to offer more integration support to refugees. Our balanced reforms to the asylum system will also create a new, full, fact-based appeal process at the Immigration and Refugee Board that will represent an additional procedural safeguard for the vast majority of refugee claimants who lose their initial hearing.
Contrary to Ms. Watson’s assertion, this is hardly a record of “refugee bashing”. She also suggests, incorrectly, that our effort to deter false asylum claimants from abusing our generous system is part of an agenda to “not only limit but cut immigration.”
In fact, the Harper government has increased immigration to its highest sustained level in Canadian history, admitting on average, 254,000 new permanent residents per year since 2006. This translates to an eight per cent increase in Canada’s population each year – the highest per capita level of immigration in the world.
While I understand that some people might reasonably object to certain aspects of our reforms to repair Canada’s broken asylum system, it is highly irresponsible to characterize our approach as anti-immigration when the opposite is true. The facts speak for themselves: our government has the most pro-immigrant and pro-refugee policy in the world.
Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism