Updated: Sep 11, 2017
With many countries in the world suffering political and economic turmoil, a global refugee crisis is in full swing and Canada is experiencing its share of the problem. On August 23rd, a special task force called the Intergovernmental Task Force on Irregular Migration met to address the crisis. The task force is composed of prominent federal ministers and Prime Minister Trudeau attended, indicating the gravity of the situation. This was second meeting of the task force to discuss the recent surge in asylum seekers who have been arriving at the US/Canadian border.
The meeting discussed Canada immigration, looking at the country's asylum system and reviewing its operating functions under the present conditions. Ministers Hussen (Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship) and Goodale (Minister of Public Safety) briefed the meeting on the current status quo and stressed that collaboration involving both the government and provincial community partners is essential. They outlined the various challenges that asylum seekers can trigger when they arrive at the border without documentation like a passport or a Canada visa, therefore, needing special consideration.
Both national and local governments are implementing strategies with the help of other bodies and organizations to improve collaboration for collecting and sharing refugee data. Another top priority is sourcing appropriate temporary housing for asylum seekers in the interim period while their claims are being processed. There's also the need to support staff employed by the government to maintain Canadian security during this busy time. So far, the federal government and provinces have worked well together to deal with the increased number of arrivals. They've agreed to continue collaborating by data sharing and coordinating efforts to ensure the basic needs of asylum seekers are met while remaining strongly committed to protecting Canada immigration laws and procedures. This includes the need to continue processing Canada ETA and Visa requests as normal so that the flow of visitors to the country can continue without undue interruption. The Task Force will continue to meet and has been hailed as very constructive. It highlights the commitment of the governments of Canada, Quebec and Ontario and their partner organizations to continually improve Canada immigration by working together to deal with the immediate and long-term situation. Clear priorities have been identified, including the security of Canadians while helping asylum seekers in need as far as possible.
In other news, Minister Hussen has announced a revolutionary new governmental process for gender equality, which is soon to affect passports and immigration documents, including the Canada Visa and Canada ETA application paperwork. Since promoting and protecting basic human rights is an essential part of the government's tasks, Canadian passports will soon have an “X” gender. This move will also apply to other documents that Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) issue in a bid to support the rights of the LGBT community. Clearly, this is another step in the right direction for Government’s proposals for gender equality, diversity and inclusion. The proposed “X” gender designation is intended for those who don't see themselves as male (“M”) or female (“F”) and it means these people will be able to acquire and renew passports and other government-issued documents that they feel are more appropriate to their gender identity.
As from August 31, 2017, Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada will be the first Canadian government department to introduce an interim measure allowing individuals to add a comment on their passport stating that their gender should be “X”. This will last until the time when the IRCC is ready to issue its new range of documents, including passports with an “X” designation. This is part of steps to give Canadians the right to identify with their choice of gender. Earlier this summer, there was a move to introduce Bill C-16, amending the Canadian Human Rights Act. This is soon to include gender identity and gender expression as illegal reasons for discrimination.
In the near future, the Canadian government will continue to work to develop a consistent approach on how they collect, use, and display sex and gender information as part of their programs and services. This will mean that Canadians will have their genders reflected more accurately on government documents, as well as having their privacy guarded. This move will impact official immigration documentation, but is a very positive step, which shows the government is committed to helping its citizens to express their gender identity in a bid to promote gender diversity in Canada.