Bill C-291, which would see the Refugee Appeals Division implemented, was due to be debated in report stage in the Commons this morning, however things didn't go according to plan. I spoke to the NDP's immigration critic, Olivia Chow, after Question Period today.
Q: So the bill is passed committee now?
A: Yes, the Liberals voted for it because they made sure that the immigration critic for the party (Maurizio Bevilacqua) was not present to vote for it. It was due to be debated this morning at 11, but Thierry St-Cyr, the sponsor of the bill, didn’t show up on time – he has about ten days or so to make sure that it gets back on, and that it happens. So that’s Report Stage, and then Third Reading.
Q: What’s your sense about how the Third Reading vote is going to go?
A: I’m afraid it might be pre-empted by the introduction of changes to the whole refugee process that are probably coming within this month by the Immigration Minister. The sooner we put in an appeal system, the better it is.
Q: Now I know he said he’s support an appeals process as part of a larger package.
A: Well he doesn’t need to do a larger package. If he wants to clear the backlog, he can do so tomorrow – he can increase the resources of the Immigration and Refugee Board, he can appoint more board members to clear the backlog, he can increase the targets. He can restore the $4 million [cuts] – but he’s doing the exact opposite. He’s reducing the number of refugees that can be approved by more than half.