Media releases | November 10, 2014

EDMONTON—Immigrant and refugee serving agencies started an advocacy campaign today across Alberta to convince the Harper government to stop their plan to allow provinces to deny refugee claimants access to social services.

Sections 172 and 173 of Bill C-43, the Harper government’s omnibus budget bill, will change the “Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act” that prohibits any minimum period of residency requirement for access to social assistance benefits for refugee claimants.

"As grassroots community health workers addressing the health and wellbeing of all newcomers to Edmonton, we are deeply concerned about the potential negative impact on individuals seeking asylum and safety in Canada not having their basic needs met at a deeply vulnerable time,” said Yvonne Chiu, Executive Director of the Edmonton Multicultural Health Brokers. “We must uphold the fundamental human rights obligations of ensuring everyone's basic needs are met without discrimination.”

“Historically, Canada has had a reputation of helping vulnerable populations get back on their feet,” said Oliver Kamau, the Regional Director for the Edmonton Immigrant Services Association.  “The benefits of such assistance have been active civic and labor participation once the burdensome circumstances have been removed. Leaving vulnerable people on their own, as Bill C-43 implies, contradicts our historical role and values”.

“Refugee claimants must already demonstrate great need in order to qualify to receive social assistance so to deny help to these vulnerable refugees is to cruelly deny the lifeline that allows them to survive,” said Bill Moore-Kilgannon, Executive Director of Public Interest Alberta. “The fact that the government has taken what was a private member’s bill (C-585) and buried it into this omnibus government budget bill is both cynical and anti-democratic.”

Albertans are being asked to go to to send a message to all federal MPs in Alberta and to call and/or meet them.  The groups will be distributing information and organizing events to challenge MPs to justify why they are attacking refugee claimants in this way.- 30 -