July marks the tenth year anniversary of the Baker decision. A milestone in both immigrant and children’s rights, the Baker case addressed the rights of four Canadian-born children to have their immigrant mother remain with them on Canadian soil, despite her foreign citizenship, illegal status, and the deportation order to return to her home country.
The Court ruled that immigration officials should pay “close attention to the interests and needs of children, since children’s rights and attention to their interests are central humanitarian and compassionate values in Canadian society“.
Ten years after Baker v. Canada, where are we with regard to immigrant children’s rights?
While Canada has long struggled with its immigration policy, it can be argued that Canadians have been fairly consistent – at least recently – in the value they put on children. Canada is recognized on the world stage as a champion for children’s rights. Canada was the co-host for the World Summit for Children and in 1991 was among the first countries to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Convention lays out the basic human rights to which all children are entitled: the right to survival; to develop to the fullest; to protection from harm; and to participate fully in family, culture and social life. Countries that are parties to the Convention are legally obligated to meet the standards set out in the Convention and the Convention applies to all children, everywhere. So in Canada, immigrant and refugee children have the same rights as Canadian-born children. So – does Canadian immigration policy line-up with the Convention? As part of the current immigration policy, the family reunification aspect has been seen as central and was recently cited as a key feature of our immigration policy.
The recent federal government budget bill – Bill C-50 – introduced major changes to immigration policy, with critics charging that that the federal Minister of Citizenship and Immigration will have far-reaching powers to hand-select immigrants, fearing that the family reunification aspect of Canadian immigration policy would fall to the wayside, giving preference for skilled immigrants to fill the country’s labour needs. The emphasis – critics charge – would be on based on an immigrants ability to contribute economically, and that bringing families together will no longer be seen as a priority.
The Canadian Coalition for Immigrant Children and Youth marks the 10th anniversary of Baker v. Canada by inviting Canadians to revisit Canada’s commitment to children as outlined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Children while considering the impact to children in the recent changes to Canadian immigration policy.