Bill C-11 Needs Thorough Review

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For Immediate Release

27 April 2010

Amnesty International Canada   Canadian Council for Refugees   Refugee Lawyers’ Association of Ontario

Joint Public Statement - Bill C-11 Needs Thorough Review

Amnesty International Canada, the Canadian Council for Refugees and the Refugee Lawyers’ Association of Ontario today expressed deep concern at the government's refusal to refer Bill C-11 to committee before second reading, and its reported plan to fast-track it to a vote.

"This bill represents a dramatic departure for Canada," said Gloria Nafziger of Amnesty International Canada. "Neutrality is absolutely essential to fair adjudication of refugee claims, yet this bill will politicize the process. Minister Kenney's proposals should be subjected to the greatest possible parliamentary scrutiny and public consultation."

Amnesty International, the Canadian Council for Refugees, the Refugee Lawyers Association and the Canadian Bar Association have all called for the bill to be referred to committee before being approved in principle by the House of Commons, expressing serious concern about some aspects of the proposed reforms. 

Andrew Brouwer of the Refugee Lawyers’ Association of Ontario said: "While many commentators and editorialists were quick to express general support for the bill, upon careful consideration of the bill’s details, almost all expert commentators share a number of serious concerns.” These include in particular:

  • Ill-considered haste:  Under Bill C-11 claimants would have an interview 8 days after arrival, and a hearing just 60 days later. These timelines will deny many refugees the opportunity to gather necessary evidence, and will disproportionately affect some of the most vulnerable refugees, including torture survivors and other traumatized applicants, as well as refugees whose claims are based on their sexual orientation.
  • Bar on appeal for selected nationalities or groups of claimants: the creation of a list of countries or groups of claimants denied an appeal on the merits brings political decision-making into what should be an independent and neutral human rights context.  It also imposes a discriminatory bias against refugee claimants from affected countries, in violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Bill C-11 does not even set minimum criteria to determine which countries or groups may be designated. 
  • Denial of humanitarian consideration and pre-removal risk assessments: the proposal to deny access to humanitarian relief, including for children, or to a final assessment of risk prior to deportation violates Canada’s obligations under both the Charter and international treaties, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

It would be a serious mistake to ignore these issues and simply fast-track the bill to adoption.

"Bill C-11 was introduced without the usual broad public consultation during the drafting process," explained Wanda Yamamoto of Canadian Council for Refugees. "Canadians and their elected representatives are being asked to accept this bill before they have had an opportunity to learn its implications. It would be a grave mistake to fast-track this important bill through second reading and committee examination. The harm caused by ill-considered and unconstitutional laws will be felt by the most vulnerable among us, and will encumber the system – and the Courts - for years to come."

The organizations are calling unanimously on all parties to insist on thorough review and extensive public consultations by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration.

See also this open letter on Bill C-11 and amendments to the refugee determination system: http://ccrweb.ca/en/bill-c-11-open-letter

For further comment please contact:

Beth Berton-Hunter, Amnesty International Canada:  416-363-9933 ext. 332, 416-904-7158 (cell)
Colleen French, Canadian Council for Refugees: 514-277-7223 ext. 1; email cfrench@ccrweb.ca
Andrew Brouwer, Chair of the Law Reform Committee, Refugee Lawyers Association of Ontario, 416-230-2614; email abrouwer@sympatico.ca