Immigration department changed ‘illegal’ to ‘irregular’ on webpage about asylum seekers as debate flared

October 4, 2018

By CBC News |

The immigration department changed a web page about asylum seekers to swap the word “illegal” for “irregular” as a debate was erupting between the federal government and Ontario on the issue, CBC News has learned.

The change in July came 18 months after the web page, titled “Claiming asylum in Canada – what happens?,” was first published — and just one day after federal Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen suggested the provincial Progressive Conservatives were mistaken in the way they were describing the status of people entering Canada at non-official entry points.

Throughout the web page, which is intended to provide information on Canada’s asylum laws, the words “illegal” and “illegally” were switched to “irregular” or “irregularly” in six separate instances on July 10, 2018.

On July 9, Hussen attacked Ontario’s newly elected premier, Doug Ford, and provincial Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod, who oversees the immigration file, over their use of the term “illegal border-crossers” when describing asylum seekers crossing at non-official border points.

As Hussen was telling a news conference Ford and MacLeod were wrong to call those border crossings “illegal,” his own department was still using that word to describe such crossings on the asylum web page. The next day, the wording was changed to “irregular.”

The change was not ordered by Hussen, said Mathieu Genest, the minister’s spokesperson.

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