A candlelight vigil will be held outside the Anglican Cathedral of Quebec in Quebec City at 7 pm on Thurs. Apr. 26 to protest proposed changes to Canada’s refugee policy.
If passed, Bill C-31 would give the Minister of Immigration the power to:
· imprison refugees, including children, for one year;
· revoke permanent residence status with no appeal;
· prevent appeals if the refugee is from a country that has been designated by the minister as “safe;”
· restrict refugees from applying to bring in their families for five years; and
· further limit access to the Canadian refugee system.
The bill just passed second reading in parliament this week. The Anglican Church of Canada’s newly appointed special advisor for government relations, the Rev. Laurette Gauthier Glasgow, will make a 10-minute presentation on concerns about the bill to the standing committee reviewing it.
“How, in God’s name, can a country like Canada consider putting people who have been tortured and raped in jail for a year?” asks Mitchell Goldberg, a lawyer and member of the Canadian Refugee Lawyers Association, who will be speaking at the vigil.
A coalition of four groups-the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, the Canadian Council of Refugees, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and Amnesty International-has been formed in response to the proposed changes to Bill C-31 and it has now been joined by 80 other groups, notes Goldberg.
“We feel that Canadians have to be very vocal that this is not right,” says Cynthia Patterson, one of the vigil organizers and a member of the cathedral’s Noella Project, which has sponsored refugees for more than a decade. Patterson says that as a result of these proposals, refugees with the Noella Project too frightened to speak. “This is just the sort of the thing that they fled,” she told the Journal.
To give the refugees a voice at the vigil, members of the cathedral’s youth group will read short accounts of their experiences. “It is tremendously important for the church to be a voice for people who are voiceless,” says Patterson, who adds that a “chilling silence” has fallen over discussion of issues that can be viewed as gospel imperatives.