Canadian Council for Refugees E-Chronicle Vol. 3 #10, 4 February 2009

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Canadian Council for Refugees E-Chronicle Vol. 3 #10, 4 February 2009

CONTENTS:

  1. Citizenship Act changes risk creating statelessness
  2. CCR position on Djamel Ameziane and other refugees detained in Guantanamo
  3. New initiative to address burden and barrier of DNA testing
  4. Letter to Minister on War Resisters in Canada
  5. CCR Working Group meetings in Toronto, 27 – 28 February 2009
  6. Save the date for the Spring Consultation in Quebec City
  7. Faces of the CCR:  ‘Niloufar’ and Quenty reunited with their families in Canada

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a. Citizenship Act changes risk creating statelessness

Recently more attention has been paid to amendments to the Citizenship Act passed last year.  The CCR opposed the changes because they introduce a new risk that children of Canadian citizens will be stateless.

The changes will take effect on 17 April 2009, and will have significant impacts on who can inherit Canadian citizenship from their parent.

Under the revised rules, there will effectively be two classes of citizenship, with a lower class that has no right to pass on their Canadian citizenship to their children (natural born or adopted).

The CCR has prepared a document to explain the implications of the revised rules and to press for the changes to be reversed:

Canadian Citizenship – Impacts of Changes.  http://www.ccrweb.ca/documents/citizenship09.htm

For recent media articles on the incoming citizenship rules, see:

Galloway, Gloria.  Expats fear for children's fate under new rules.  The Globe and Mail, 3 February 2009.  http://tinyurl.com/atmyqc

Galloway, Gloria.  Complex citizenship laws anger adoptive parents.  The Globe and Mail, 26 January 2009.  http://tinyurl.com/aqhva6

McGregor, Glen.  Incoming rules create two-tier citizenship, critics warn, The Ottawa Citizen, 16 January 2009.  http://tinyurl.com/b5bopo

b. CCR position on Djamel Ameziane and other refugees detained in Guantanamo

Soon after the swearing in of Barack Obama as the new President of the United States, the news came that the detention centre in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba would be closed.  With this good news, challenges remain for many detainees, including Djamel Ameziane, who cannot return to their countries of origin for fear of persecution.

The CCR held a press conference in October 2008 urging the government to offer resettlement in Canada to Djamel and others.  Canada has yet to commit to resettling refugees from Guantanamo, despite the offers of private sponsorship. Several other countries including Portugal, France, Ireland and Switzerland have publicly expressed willingness to help.

Take action on behalf of Djamel Ameziane and other detainees in Guantanamo.  Write to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration urging him to offer Ameziane refugee resettlement without delay and encourage the Canadian government to be a part of the solution for other refugees held in Guantanamo.

For more information and a sample letter to the Minister, see: http://www.ccrweb.ca/guantanamo.htm

c. New initiative to address burden and barrier of DNA testing

The CCR is launching a new initiative to address the unfair burden of government requests for DNA testing for refugees seeking family reunification.  Many refugees, especially those from Africa, are required to submit to these intrusive, costly and time-consuming tests, in order to reunite with immediate family members.

The CCR will be administering a fund of $10,000, which will be available to cover the costs for some families of DNA testing.

The cases funded will be used by the CCR , as part of our efforts for systemic change, to illustrate the hardship of DNA testing and the fact that it is not only requested as a last resort.

Applications for funding must be submitted by a CCR member organization.  For more information, including the application form, CCR members should write to jdench@ccrweb.ca

d. Letter to Minister on War Resisters in Canada

The CCR responded publicly to a letter from the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration printed in the Toronto Sun on 2 January on the government’s position towards war resisters from the United States in Canada.  In his letter, the Minister points out the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) makes decisions independent of the government, but later on says that ‘military deserters from the United States are not genuine refugees.’

The CCR’s letter to the Minister takes issue with this and other points that the Minister raised:

  • It is inappropriate for the Minister to voice his opinion on how IRB members make refugee determinations
  • Refugee claims made by US war resisters do not lead to delays for others in the refugee claim process.  The number of war resisters making claims is miniscule in comparison to the total of outstanding claims. Filling IRB member vacancies would decrease delays more significantly.
  • The war in Iraq goes against international law.  The CCR supports all war resisters from any country who refuse to engage in armed conflict that is contrary to international humanitarian law.

The CCR also took this opportunity to urge the Minister and his government to allow war resisters to remain in Canada in humanitarian and compassionate grounds.  This is in line with the Canadian Parliament’s June 2008 resolution calling for a program allowing war resisters to apply for permanent residence.

For the complete text of the letter, see: http://www.ccrweb.ca/documents/warresistersjan09.htm

e. CCR Working Group meetings in Toronto, 27 – 28 February 2009

Do you want to be part of efforts to promote rights for refugees?  Want to participate in in-depth discussions on pressing issues affecting refugees and immigrants in Canada?  Looking for an opportunity to share information and strategies with others from across Canada?

Come to the CCR Winter Working Group meetings in Toronto!

The CCR Winter Working Group meetings will be held in Toronto on 27 and 28 February 2009.  All CCR members are encouraged to attend the Working Group meetings, which are also open to others interested.  The meetings are closed to media and government.

The meeting schedule is:

- FRIDAY 27 FEBRUARY: 9:30am - 5pm
Inland Protection Working Group meeting and
Immigration and Settlement Working Group meeting

- SATURDAY 28 FEBRUARY: 9:30am - 5pm
Overseas Protection and Sponsorship Working Group meeting

Location: Our Lady of Lourdes Church, 520 Sherbourne Street, Toronto

For more information, check out the CCR ‘Meetings’ webpage at: http://www.ccrweb.ca/eng/about/meetings.htm or consult this flyer (and share it with others!): http://www.ccrweb.ca/documents/WGsEN.pdf

f. Save the date for the Spring Consultation in Quebec City

Save the dates!: The 2009 CCR Spring Consultation will take place in Quebec City, 28 – 30 May.  Updated information about the Consultation and registration detail will be posted on the CCR website at: http://www.ccrweb.ca/eng/about/meetings.htm in early March.

Looking for the report from the 2008 CCR Fall Consultation?  The final report of the Consultation ’30 Years of Building a Home of Justice for Refugees and Immigrants’, including summaries and suggested actions from the workshop sessions, is available on the CCR website at: http://www.ccrweb.ca/documents/consultreportnov2008.pdf

The text of the resolutions adopted at the Consultation can be accessed at: http://www.ccrweb.ca/documents/resnov08.htm

g. Faces of the CCR:  ‘Niloufar’ and Quenty reunited with their families in Canada

You may remember in April 2008, the CCR profiled several separated families as part of the campaign to have the government cancel Regulation 117(9)(d) – the Excluded Family Member rule.  We recently received news from some of the families that have since been reunited in Canada.  

Niloufar in CanadaNiloufar (pictured after her arrival in Canada with sponsors) is now living with her mother and brother in Saskatoon and is adjusting well.  The St. Philip Neri Church Refugee Sponsorship Group continues its efforts to bring to Canada her father, who is still in Pakistan.

Another of the children profiled, Quenty, has recently arrived in Edmonton from Sierra Leone to reunite with his family, after more than three years of separation.  The reunion was reported in the Edmonton Journal.  You’ll find the complete story (with a photo) at:

Alexandra Zabjek, Refugees reunited after 31/2-year ordeal, The Edmonton Journal, 2 February 2009. http://tinyurl.com/cpsj88

R. 117(9)(d) says that a person is not considered a family member for immigration purposes, and therefore cannot be sponsored, if that family member was not examined by an immigration officer when the sponsor immigrated to Canada.  This provision was intended to deter or penalize deliberate misrepresentation, but it has had broad, devastating impacts, especially on children. 

Since publishing the profiles last year, the CCR has heard of many more painful cases of families separated by R. 117(9)(d).

Please continue to write to and meet with Members of Parliament, calling for the repeal of this regulation so that no other family has to face the prospect of permanent separation.  In the meantime, many thanks go out to hard-working community groups and individuals for their efforts on behalf of families affected by the regulation.

Looking for more information about Regulation 117(9)(d), its impacts and what you can do?  Check out the resources, campaign tools and practical information at: www.reunification.ca