Refugee reform deal 'win-win': Kenney

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney is hailing a "win-win" deal with opposition parties on revised legislation to reform Canada's refugee system.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney is hailing a "win-win" deal with opposition parties on revised legislation to reform Canada's refugee system.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney speaks to reporters in Ottawa on Thursday. ((Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press))

At a news conference in Ottawa Thursday, Kenney said the prospects for the amended legislation, Bill C-11, being passed before July 1 are "very good."

Kenney singled out NDP immigration critic Olivia Chow and the Bloc Québécois's immigration critic, Thierry St-Cyr, for their "remarkable diligence" working with the government to revise the bill, which seeks to limit the number of fraudulent applications and reduce the massive backlog in Canada's refugee system. 

Opposition parties had expressed concern over the government's desire to limit the number of refugee applicants from designated "safe countries" and demanded that rejected applicants have universal access to an appeal.

The government has insisted it needs a tool to expedite processing a wave of bogus refugee applications from countries that in fact have solid human rights records.

Kenney said the revised bill will still let the minister designate certain countries as sources of spurious refugee claims, but people who get caught up in that system will have a quick right to a fact-based appeal.

"We found a very reasonable compromise that met both objectives," Kenney said Thursday. "It is evidence that this minority Parliament can work. It is credit to my critics in particular who demonstrated their diligence as real legislators .… This is a win-win for everyone."

Reforms will bring 'fast and fair' system: Chow

In a separate news conference, the NDP's Chow said Canada "will finally get a refugee reform package that is both fast and fair."

"When the refugee reform package is fully implemented, hopefully genuine refugees won't have to wait so long to receive status in Canada and to be united with the children living in dangerous camps overseas," she said.

The minister had threatened to withdraw the legislation earlier this week after a number of MPs in the Liberal caucus rejected a tentative deal Kenney made with the party's immigration critic, Maurizio Bevilacqua. Instead, he turned to the Bloc and the NDP and emerged with all-party consensus on a revised bill late Wednesday.

When asked about Bevilacqua's role, Kenney commended his contributions and said the Liberal critic acted in good faith, but slammed Liberal MP and former immigration minister Denis Coderre for what he said was "shameless politicking" on the issue.

The Globe and Mail reported earlier this week that Coderre and other members of the Quebec Liberal caucus objected to the tentative deal endorsed by Bevilacqua during last week's Liberal caucus meeting.

In the days following the meeting, the Liberals signalled they could not support the legislation and accused Kenney of boasting about a deal while negotiations were still ongoing.

Kenney also introduced new legislation on Thursday aimed at cracking down on citizenship fraud, including a proposed increase in penalties against those who sell bogus citizenship packages to a maximum fine of $100,000 and/or a maximum five-year prison term.

Bill C-37 would also increase the government's ability to bar foreign criminals — those who have been found guilty of a crime outside of Canada — from obtaining Canadian citizenship, the minister said.

With files from The Canadian Press