Letter to the Prime Minister concerning Bill C-50

18 April 2008


The Right Honourable Stephen Harper, P.C., M.P.
Prime Minister of Canada
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0A2

Re:      Bill C-50 – proposed amendments to Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA)


Dear Prime Minister,

We are writing to you to express our grave concerns with respect to Bill C-50.

We believe that Canada is a country that is and shall remain welcoming to immigrants and refugees, and that the future of our country depends to a great extent on a fair, open, transparent and humanitarian immigration selection and refugee protection system.

We are all for the Government’s stated objective to clear the backlog in immigration applications, yet we are far from convinced that the changes as proposed in Bill C-50 are the most effective – or even necessary – means to achieve that goal.  In fact, the proposed amendments will not in any case resolve the existing backlog, since they only affect applications made after the end of February 2008.

Our key objections – which are shared by many other Canadians – concerning Bill C-50 stem both from the process in which it is introduced and the substance of the proposed changes.

Above all, we are deeply concerned about the arbitrary power given by Bill C-50 to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to make important changes to the immigration processing and acceptance systems through the issuance of instructions without Parliamentary oversight or mandatory consultations.  The granting of such extraordinary power given to individuals over and above the law without any political accountability is a direct affront to democracy and violates the spirit of the Rule of Law, which requires that governmental authority function within clear limits established by Parliament.

We are just as troubled by the move to eliminate the right to permanent residence for applicants who meet the requirements of the Act, and the right to have an overseas application for humanitarian and compassionate (H&C) consideration examined. 

While the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration has made a number of statements of intent as to how she will exercise the new powers that the amendments will give her, expressions of current intention are no protection against future uses of the powers in very different ways.   The fact that no draft instructions have yet been made public further hinders the promotion of better understanding of and a more informed debate about this issue.

We echo the strong sentiment already expressed by many Canadians that immigration is a critical issue of significance to Canada and as such, any substantive changes made to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act should only be implemented after a meaningful consultation process.   Given its mandate and expertise in the area, the appropriate parliamentary body to consider the amendments is the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration.  Furthermore, the inclusion of the amendments in the budget bill precludes the proper and separate consideration that they deserve.  Thus, the only reasonable thing for the Government to do is to sever the immigration amendments from Bill C-50  and refer them to the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration for full and extensive public hearings.


Yours sincerely,



Elizabeth McWeeny


c.c.    The Hon. Stéphane Dion, MP, Leader of the Official Opposition
          Gilles Duceppe, MP, Leader of the Bloc Québécois
          The Hon. Jack Layton, MP, Leader of the of the New Democratic Party

This letter, or a similar one, has also been signed by the following other organizations:

Accueil et intégration BSL, Rimouski
Affiliation of Multicultural Societies and Service Agencies of BC (AMSSA)
AFIO - L’Association des femmes immigrantes de l’Outaouais
African Canadian Legal Clinic
Canadian Arab Federation
Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network
Canadian Ukrainian Immigrant Aid Society, Toronto
CEDA - Soutien aux personnes immigrantes, Montréal
Central Vancouver Island Multicultural Society
Centre des travailleuses en maisons privées, Montréal
Centre for Spanish-Speaking Peoples (CSSP)
Centre justice et foi
CLEO (Community Legal Education Ontario/
Éducation juridique communautaire Ontario)
Community Legal Services (Ottawa-Centre)
Community Legal Services of Niagara South
Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN)
D.O.O.R.S. to New Life Refugee Centre, Thunder Bay
Downsview Community Legal Services
East Toronto Community Legal Services
Family Education and Support Centre, Maple Ridge, BC
Jane Finch Community Legal Services
Kitchener-Waterloo Reception Centre
Ligue des droits et libertés
Mennonite Central Committee Canada
Metro Toronto Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic
Mississauga Community Legal Services
Multilingual Community Interpreter Services, Toronto
Neighbourhood Legal Services
North Peel & Dufferin Community Legal Services
L’Observatoire international sur le racisme et les discriminations
OCASI: Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants
Parkdale Community Legal Services
PROMIS, Montréal
Quinte United Immigrant Services, Belleville
RIVO (Réseau d’intervention auprès des personnes ayant subi la violence organisée)
Service d’accueil des nouveaux arrivants (SANA Shawinigan)
South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario
South Ottawa Community Legal Services
Table de concertation des organismes au service des personnes réfugiées et immigrantes (TCRI)
Urban Alliance on Race Relations, Toronto
West Coast Domestic Workers’ Association
West Scarborough Community Legal Clinic
West Toronto Community Legal Services
Women’s Health in Women’s Hands Community Health Centre, Toronto