Media releases | December 10, 2014

EDMONTON—A rally was held in front of MP Peter Goldring’s office today, International Human Rights Day, to demand answers to why the Conservative government is pushing through legislation that will allow provinces to deny refugee claimants access to social services.

"When we met with Peter Goldring on November 12th, we explained we are deeply concerned about the potential negative impact on individuals seeking asylum 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 want to know why the federal government will not uphold the fundamental human rights obligation of ensuring everyone's basic needs are met without discrimination. It should not take more than a month to respond to a basic question.”

“Historically, Canada has had a reputation of helping vulnerable populations get back on their feet, so we were shocked when Peter Goldring asked why the families could not just go to a homeless shelter,” said Bill Moore-Kilgannon, Executive Director of Public Interest Alberta.  “Given refugee claimants must already demonstrate great need in order to qualify for provincial income assistance and that it takes months for refugee claimants to get work permits, it is cruel to deny them the support they need to survive when they first arrive in Canada.”

Susana Morales Soto’s family came to Canada in 2008 as refugee claimants and had to rely on provincial income supports for seven months before she and her husband received their work permits. “When refugee claimants arrive in Canada it is challenging to find information and resources,” said Morales Soto. “There is hardly anyone we know. It takes some time to get a work permit. Social assistance is our only support during this time. But of course once the work permit comes through we should not depend on social assistance at all and try to find work.”

“We see that on the United Nations webpage celebrating International Human Rights Day, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says ‘I call on states to honour their obligation to protect human rights every day of the year. I call on people to hold their governments to account,” said Jim Gurnett, long-time community activist and former Executive Director of the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers. “Well, the people are here on this important day to hold the Conservative government to account for yet another attack on the basic human rights of refugee claimants.”

Albertans can send a message to all federal MPs in Alberta asking that sections 172 and 173 be removed from Bill C-43 by going to 30 -