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|Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (pictured March 2019) defended the measure against "asylum shopping," saying they were adding resources to ensure "the system is fair for everyone". (AFP/Lars Hagberg)|
The measure against so-called "asylum shopping" was slipped into a 392-page budget omnibus bill presented to parliament late on Monday.
Critics called it an attack on the rights of vulnerable people, and said it flies in the face of a compassionate Canada advanced by Trudeau, once seen welcoming newcomers with a hug and a gift of a parka.
But officials said it will ease pressure on Canada's refugee system, which has been overwhelmed by a recent flood of migrants arriving via the United States.
"We need to recognise that there are larger numbers now than before because of global instability in terms of refugees," Trudeau told reporters as he arrived for work on Wednesday.
"That's why we're putting more resources and we're also ensuring that the system is fair for everyone."
Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen earlier this week said the measure is supported by the United Nations and would result in about 1,000 claimants each year being denied asylum in Canada.
The provision, he explained, would simply formalise the notion that Canada's refugee system is comparable to those in other developed nations and so if an asylum bid is rejected by them, it would fail here as well.
"If you are able to claim asylum in a country like Australia, which has a very robust asylum system, why would you then claim asylum again in Canada? That's called asylum shopping and we are against it. And the UN is against it," he said.
Since early 2017, Canada has seen a rise in asylum seekers with about 40,000 having walked across the border from the United States in response to tightened US immigration policies.
New Democrat MP Jenny Kwan denounced Ottawa's crackdown, telling lawmakers: "Humanitarian leaders do not shut their borders to asylum seekers during a refugee crisis."
Janet Dench, head of the Canadian Council for Refugees, told public broadcaster CBC that she and her organization's more than 100 member groups that work with migrants were "in a state of shock and dismay and great disappointment" over the proposed changes.
"This is really a devastating attack on refugee rights," she said.
"We've been urging the government to drop the existing ineligibility provisions, which already leave some people without the protection that they need from Canada.
"This is going a huge step further in creating another whole category of people who will be denied access to the refugee determination system on an arbitrary basis."