Advocacy for children

Letter Re Bill C31

30 May 2012

The Honourable Jason Kenney, P.C., M.P.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6

Re: Bill C-31

Dear Minister Kenney:

I am writing on behalf of the Atlantic Pediatric Society regarding Bill C-31, Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act. While we agree with the need to control human smuggling, Bill C-31 goes too far in victimizing refugees and will cause undue harm to children who are the most vulnerable targets of the bill.

With this Bill, the federal Government is drastically reducing health coverage for all classes of refugees. Some will be denied coverage entirely, most will receive coverage limited to:
- those of "an urgent or essential nature" and
- "medications and vaccines only if needed to prevent or treat a disease that is a risk to public health or a condition of safety concern".

Refugee children will be ineligible for vaccines; pregnant refugees will be ineligible for routine antenatal care. This will have devastating health consequences for women and children and is bound to result in birth complications and put the lives of women and children at risk.

In addition, the Bill states that: Refugee claimants arriving as a group can, on designation by the Minister, be incarcerated in high-security prisons for one year without review. Children aged 16 or more will be imprisoned as if they were adults. Children under 16 will either be
separated from their parents and handed over to child protection agencies, or unofficially detained with their parents.

Studies have shown that “detention increases risk of suicidal thoughts, post-traumatic stress disorder and self-harm in refugee claimants.” Bill C-31 will cause psychological harm and suffering to highly vulnerable people who have already experienced repeated trauma. The
separation of young children from their imprisoned families could cause significant, lasting traumatic effects.

We are asking that you amend Bill C-31 and find ways to protect innocent victims from the provisions of the Bill in its present form. We sympathize with efforts to control human smuggling but this cannot be done on the backs of children.

Yours sincerely,

John C. LeBlanc, MD, MSc, FRCPC, FAAP
President, Atlantic Pediatric Society

Vic Toews, Minister of Public Safety
David Tilson, Chair, Parliamentary Committee on Bill C-31 (Conservative Party)
Jinny Jogindera Sims, Vice-chair, Parliamentary Committee on Bill C-31 and shadow minister
of immigration (NDP)
Kevin Lamoureux Vice-chair, Parliamentary Committee on Bill C-31 (Liberal Party)
Irwin Cotler Shadow minister of Justice (Liberal Party)

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