A welcome opportunity to ensure refugee bill is fair and efficient

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For Immediate Release

3 June 2010

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

A welcome opportunity to ensure refugee bill is fair and efficient

The Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR), Amnesty International (AI) and Refugee Lawyers Association of Ontario (RLA) welcome the Parliamentary Standing Committee’s decision today to postpone clause-by-clause consideration of Bill C-11, the refugee reform bill.  This provides an opportunity  to propose amendments which will ensure a more fair and efficient refugee determination system. 

The organizations recognize that the current refugee determination system, despite its strong points, is cumbersome and overly lengthy, as well as having significant protection gaps.

Bill C-11 represents an important opportunity to bring necessary improvements, but currently contains elements that will lead to some refugees, particularly the most vulnerable, being unfairly denied protection.  Those familiar with the refugee process also fear that some elements in practice will be inefficient and not achieve the goals of faster processing which is the government’s objective.

The weaknesses in the bill can still be addressed.  With consultation we believe it is possible to design a system that ensures that refugees are protected, while discouraging those who don’t need protection from entering the refugee system.  Unfortunately, the government has chosen to date not to consult fully with the public and has pressed for an extremely rushed legislative process through Parliament. We hope this is about to change.

The CCR, AI and RLA urge Parliamentarians over the next few days to agree on workable amendments that ensure respect of human rights.  In particular, amendments are required to address the following inequities:

  • Some claimants are denied access to appeal on the merits on the basis of their national origin.
  • Claimants are denied the right to make a humanitarian and compassionate application.
  • Claimants undergo an interview on the basis of their claim before they are ready and without counsel.

The CCR, AI and RLA remain available and are prepared to work with all parties to develop amendments to the bill that meet the test of fairness and speed.

Beth Berton-Hunter, Amnesty International Canada:  416-363-9933 ext. 332, 416-904-7158 (cell)
Colleen French, Canadian Council for Refugees: 514-476-3971
Andrew Brouwer, Chair of the Law Reform Committee, Refugee Lawyers Association of Ontario, 416-230-2614; email abrouwer@sympatico.ca