Jenny Kwan, MP

Member of Parliament, Vancouver East

Jenny Kwan Statement: World Refugee Day 2019

MP Jenny Kwan Statement on World Refugee Day 2019

Canadians will remember the image of Alan Kurdi, the three-year-old Syrian boy who drowned in the Mediterranean Sea during the Syrian refugee crisis. That initiated a call from Canadians to show compassion in the midst of a global forced displacement crisis. But since 2015, the Liberals have gone from #WelcomeToCanada to ramming through significant changes hidden in an omnibus budget bill to try and stop refugees from making a claim in Canada.

On this, World Refugee Day, we learn that the US has now detained thousands of children in concentration camps. Children are now being denied access to even so much as a toothbrush while in these facilities. At least 7 children have died. There have been reports of sexual violence. LGBTQ2+ asylum claimants are being held indefinitely in solitary confinement. Canada, and the international community, recognize that as an act of torture. The US is now re-opening the very sites that the US once used to detain Japanese-Americans during WWII on the basis of racist assumptions. Yet the Liberals and Conservatives continue to pretend that the US is somehow still a safe country for asylum seekers.

Under Donald Trump, the United States also no longer recognizes gender-based violence or gang violence as grounds for claiming asylum.  Many of the people seeking safety are women and girls that have transited through South and Central America into the United States before arriving in Canada. Many of these women and girls have been subjected to gender-based violence and gang violence.  By continuing to declare the US is a Safe Country for Asylum, Canada is complicit in Donald Trump’s racist, xenophobic policies that seek to deter women and girls fleeing violence from obtaining protection.

Canada has a duty to stand on the side of human rights and humanitarianism, so I will continue the fight that I began in January of 2017 for Canada to suspend the Safe Third Country Agreement.

This is not the time to sacrifice our humanity for political gain.  The lives of those fleeing persecution are not dispensible. Action is needed now more than ever. The changes hidden in Bill C-97, the omnibus budget bill, is another clear indication that the Liberals have caved to the Conservatives’ attacks and misinformation on asylum claimants on the eve of election. By ramming these changes through, the Liberals are showing Canadians that they will sacrifice principle for political gain.

Experts such as the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, the Canadian Council for Refugees, Amnesty International, and forty-six women’s organizations along with thousands of Canadians, have stated unequivocally that those changes will put lives at risk and that there are no acceptable amendments to make the changes better. The only option is to repeal this draconian measure. 

We must all remember that this is not a game and we should not be playing politics with people’s lives. Canada has long been a leader on humanitarian causes and refugee resettlement.

On World Refugee Day, I call on the Government of Canada to have the courage to get on the right side of history: withdraw the dangerous changes to the refugee system contained in Bill C-97, and suspend the Safe Third Country Agreement.

Do this and you will stand with Canadians who ask you to take a step for refugee rights and in doing so, you will strengthen all of our human rights.