Canadian Council for Refugees E-Chronicle Vol. 4 #11, 8 March 2010

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CONTENTS:

  1. CCR response to Minister’s comments on refugee claimants
  2. Update on CCR Call for Special Measures for Haiti
  3. Refugee Rights Day – Guaranteeing Life, Liberty, Security and Humanity for Refugees in Canada for 25 years
  4. Campaign around delays at Nairobi visa post
  5. Two-tier citizenship: Letter to the Prime Minister
  6. Save the dates: CCR Spring Consultation ‘Solidarity and Protection: Our obligations at home and abroad’ 3-5 June 2010, Ottawa
  7. Faces of the CCR: Daniet Kidane, Edmonton
  8. New from the CCR
    • Resources for Refugee Rights Day, 4 April 2010

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  1. CCR response to Minister’s comments on refugee claimants

On March 3rd, the CCR expressed dismay at recent media comments made by Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Jason Kenney (CTV, March 2, 2010, Refugee claims from Olympics 'ridiculous': minister, http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20100302/olympic_ref...).

Among the responsibilities of the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration is upholding Canada’s international obligations towards refugees and promoting public support for refugees. Of course the Minister is free to comment on what he views as weaknesses in Canada’s refugee determination system, but negative public comments that are prejudicial to judicial independence only undermine Canada’s credibility as a country committed to protecting refugees.

The CCR also notes that the Minister appears to be ignorant about his own program.  Contrary to his statement, claimants do not have the right to either a work permit or health care after they have withdrawn or abandoned their refugee claim.  They are also unlikely to get access to welfare benefits anywhere in Canada, although this is a matter under provincial jurisdiction.

Send your comments to the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, Jason Kenney, at: Minister@cic.gc.ca.

The Minister’s comments create a hostile environment for refugee claimants, just at the time that the government is committing in the Throne Speech to introduce legislation to change the refugee determination system. 

For the full press release from the CCR, see: http://ccrweb.ca/en/bulletin/10/03/03

For the CCR’s blog entry on the same issue, see: http://ccrweb.ca/en/ministers-comments-undermine-refugee-protection

  1. Update on CCR Call for Special Measures for Haiti

The CCR continues to be concerned at the inadequacy of immigration responses from the federal government in response to the earthquake in Haiti.  Very few families have been reunited to date.  The federal government has failed to offer to broader humanitarian family measures, to match the special measures offered by Quebec.  There has not even been a willingness to exempt applicants from the fees, as was done in the wake of the tsunami.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada certainly faces challenges in processing immigration cases, given the destruction in Haiti.  Nevertheless, they succeeded in bringing very quickly over 200 children being adopted by parents in Canada.  On the other hand, few children with biological parents in Canada have arrived, even when their immigration processing was all but complete at the time of the earthquake.  Unfortunately, the political will that existed to unite adopted children with their parents is missing when it comes to reuniting Haitian children with their biological parents in Canada.  Some of these children having been living on the streets since the earthquake.

The Quebec government has launched special measures that allow for sponsorship of adult children and brothers and sisters, on humanitarian grounds.  Because the federal government has declined to do anything similar, there is a lack of equity in opportunities for Canadians of Haitian origin to respond to family members, depending on whether they live in Quebec or elsewhere.

For more information:

  1. Refugee Rights Day – Guaranteeing Life, Liberty, Security and Humanity for Refugees in Canada for 25 years

Refugee Rights Day 2010April 4, 1985 was a milestone for refugee rights in Canada.  On that day, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects the right of refugee claimants in Canada to life, liberty and security of the person, and that claimants are therefore entitled to an oral hearing, in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.  This ruling is known as the ‘Singh decision’.

In honour of this decision, April 4th is recognized as Refugee Rights Day in Canada.  This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Singh decision.

Canadians can be proud of many accomplishments to protect refugees, but there is still a lot to do to protect refugee rights in Canada. 
Check the CCR’s Refugee Rights Day webpage shortly at: http://www.ccrweb.ca/RRDay.htm for a brief history of accomplishments and for action ideas. 

We encourage you to use the ideas to promote refugee rights in your local area on or around April 4th.

For a brochure on Refugee Rights Day and what the Singh decision means for refugees in Canada, see: http://www.ccrweb.ca/documents/RRDAYpamphletEN.pdf

  1. Campaign around delays at Nairobi visa post

The CCR invites you to join in calling on the government to find urgent solutions to  grave problem of delays at the Nairobi visa office.  These problems were recently exposed in a report: Nairobi: Protection Delayed, Protection denied.  Delays mean that refugees are denied protection, and children wait in vulnerable situations to be reunited with their parents in Canada.  The longer the wait, the greater the risk to the security, the health and even the lives of refugees.

 The CCR has prepared a suggested outline of a letter to write to the Minister.  You are encouraged to highlight a case delayed at Nairobi to illustrate the concrete human impacts – either one known to you or one proposed by the CCR.

For more information and model letter, see http://ccrweb.ca/en/nairobi-action

  1. Two-tier citizenship: Letter to the Prime Minister

In February, the CCR wrote to Prime Minister Stephen Harper to express its increasing concern that when abroad, Canadian citizens are not all being offered necessary and equal protection by the Government of Canada.

The CCR’s letter drew on the cases of Suaad Hagi Mohamud and Abousfian Abdelrazik to illustrate the concern that some citizens, seemingly based on race and religion, are denied the rights and protections that should be guaranteed to all citizens. The letter also highlighted the absence of a speaker invited to the CCR 2009 Fall Consultation, Abdullah Almalki, who was prevented from boarding a flight to Windsor from Ottawa, apparently because of the proximity of Windsor to the US border.  As can be seen from these cases the Canadian citizens who suffer from a lack of government protection are predominantly Muslim and racialized, giving rise to a concern that there are effectively two tiers of citizenship in Canada, when all citizens should be treated equally.

The letter urged the Prime Minister to include commitments to fully implement the recommendations of the Arar Commission and to put in place adequate policies, training and monitoring to ensure that the human rights of all Canadian citizens abroad are fully and equally protected by the Government of Canada in the Speech from the Throne.  Unfortunately, this did not happen.  Instead, the budget includes only a commitment to create a new oversight mechanism for the RCMP, which seems to represent a rejection of Justice O'Connor's recommendations for an integrated complaint and review mechanism for all agencies involved in national security.  This reinforces the CCR’s concern that government lacks the will to ensure that all citizens receive equal protection.

For the full text of the CCR’s letter to the Prime Minister, see: http://ccrweb.ca/en/two-tier-citizenship-letter-prime-minister

  1. Save the dates!: CCR Spring Consultation ‘Solidarity and Protection: Our obligations at home and abroad’ 3-5 June 2010, Ottawa

Solidarity and protectionSave the dates!: The 2010 CCR Spring Consultation will take place in Ottawa, 3-5 June.  The theme of the Consultation will be “Solidarity and Protection: Our obligations at home and abroad”.

Details about the Consultation, including registration information, will be posted on the CCR website at: http://www.ccrweb.ca/eng/about/meetings.htm in the coming days.

  1. Faces of the CCR: Daniet Kidane, Edmonton

DKidaneDaniet Kidane is a twenty-year-old university student in Edmonton, Alberta.   She volunteers with many groups in Edmonton and is an active member of the CCR Youth Network. 

Daniet and her family were deported from Ethiopia to Eritrea in 1998, during the Eritrea-Ethiopian War. They escaped the turmoil, sought refuge in Kenya, and were then sponsored to come to Canada in 2005.  Daniet arrived in Canada with three of her siblings; the oldest aged 18 at the time.  They were only recently reunited with their parents.

Upon arrival in Canada, Daniet and her siblings had to repay a loan for their transportation – of more than $10,000 – with heavy monthly payments. “That's a huge amount of money to come up with, especially when you're new to the country and when you've come from a war-torn place.  When you add other expenses like transportation, rent, food and clothing, we barely had money left to go to Dollarama,” says Daniet. Not only did the siblings attend school, but they also worked in the evenings.  Often they would not see each other for days at a time. “We were constantly scared that the government would deport us back if we hadn't paid the money, or they would punish us.” Even though Canada wouldn’t deport anyone for not paying the loan, many refugees may not know this and the worry weighs heavily on them.

Daniet emphasizes that transportation loans can skew a young person’s understanding of the value of education, and also alienate them: preventing them from adapting to a new place, getting to know people, and finding helpful resources. For example, her oldest brother had to drop out of school and work full-time in order to meet loan payments. “Because he was working so much and not really communicating with people, it took him almost three years to speak English.” Furthermore, Daniet explains that some people paying loans “get easily distracted by the money they make now and their lives take on a totally different direction.”

 Despite the burden of the transportation loan on herself and her family, Daniet now hopes to “graduate and get a good job. I am very involved in my community and I do a lot of volunteering and the wonderful people I meet day to day inspire me to become a successful person in the future and one who will be a role model to many.” Daniet remains active in the CCR following her participation at the CCR’s Consultation in Windsor in December 2009 and will continue to do so in the future.

  1. New from the CCR
  • Resources for Refugee Rights Day, 4 April 2010

Refugee Rights Day 2010Over the next few weeks, we will be posting updated resources on our dedicated Refugee Rights Day webpage: www.ccrweb.ca/RRDay.htm.  We encourage you to use these resources in preparation for and during activities marking Refugee Rights Day on April 4th.  This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s 1985 Singh decision.

As part of Refugee Rights Day activities this year, we are producing short video clips on why the Singh decision is important and on the difference it has made in the lies of several people.  Contribute your own video and share them with others on this 25th anniversary of the Singh decision: What does it mean to you and others in your life?  Check the CCR’s YouTube channel at: http://www.youtube.com/ccrwebvideos as we roll out videos from CCR members in the coming weeks.

Are you planning an activity on or around April 4th?  Let us know and we can pass the word on through the CCR website.  Send an email to Colleen French at cfrench@ccrweb.ca with the details. 

 

Looking for other ways to stay in touch with the CCR and refugee and immigration issues?  Subscribe to receive updates from the CCR on Twitter and Facebook:

To join the CCR on Facebook: http://bit.ly/5UWGFw
To follow the CCR on Twitter: http://twitter.com/ccrweb
To view CCR videos on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/ccrwebvideos