Canadian Council for Refugees E-Chronicle Vol. 3 #11, 3 March 2009

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CONTENTS:

  1. CCR urges refugees in Guantanamo be resettled to Canada
  2. Contact your Member of Parliament!: New Refugee Appeal Division bill before Parliament
  3. Supreme Court declines to hear legal challenge of  Canada-US Safe Third Country Agreement
  4. Call on the government to sponsor stateless refugees from Iraq
  5. April 4th is Refugee Rights Day: 40 years of the Refugee Convention in Canada
  6. Make plans to attend the CCR Spring Consultation in Quebec City, 28-30 May 2009

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  1.  CCR urges refugees in Guantanamo be resettled to Canada

The Canadian Council for Refugees is calling on the Canadian government to resettle without delay some of the detainees in Guantanamo who have been unlawfully detained for seven years and who cannot safely return to their home countries.  A number of groups are willing to welcome these refugees and have submitted applications on their behalf through the Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program.
Refugee sponsorships have been submitted on behalf of:

  • Djamel Ameziane, an Algerian detained at Guantanamo for 7 years, sponsored by the Anglican Diocese of Montreal.
  • Anwar Hassan, a Uighur from China, detained at Guantanamo for 7 years, sponsored by a group of United Church congregations in Toronto.
  • Two Uighurs from China, detained at Guantanamo for 7 years, sponsored by the Catholic Diocese of Montreal.  They have asked that their names not be published for fear of repercussions on their families.
  • Maasoum Abdah Mouhammad, a Kurd from Syria, detained at Guantanamo for more than 6 and a half years, is being sponsored by a United Church congregation in Toronto. 

All those sponsored are innocent victims who were sent to Guantanamo only because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.  After years of investigation the US authorities have found no evidence on which to charge them with any crimes of violence.  Furthermore, any refugees sponsored for resettlement to Canada are subject to criminality and security checks by the Canadian government before any visa is issued. 

The Canadian resettlement applications are part of international efforts to find solutions for those detained in Guantanamo.  US President Obama has ordered that the detention centre in Guantanamo be closed within a year.  Some of the detainees face charges; some of them will be able to return home; those being sponsored are part of a third group who neither face charges nor can return home because of a risk of persecution in their home country.

For more information about the men being sponsored for resettlement and how you can support resettlement efforts, see: http://www.ccrweb.ca/guantanamo.htm

For a selection of media pieces on refugee resettlement for detainees in Guantanamo, see:

‘Church groups offer to sponsor detainees from Guantanamo Bay’, The Toronto Star, 11 February 2009. http://www.thestar.com/News/Canada/article/585573

‘Federal government has no plans to expedite cases of Gitmo detainees’, Canadian Press, 10 February 2009. http://tinyurl.com/b8xem5

‘Canadian churches take up cause of five Guantanamo detainees’, Christian Science Monitor, 23 February 2009.  http://www.csmonitor.com/2009/0223/p02s01-usmi.html

  1. Contact your Member of Parliament!: New Refugee Appeal Division bill before Parliament

Shortly after the opening of the new parliamentary session, Thierry St-Cyr, immigration critic for the Bloc québécois, tabled a private member’s bill, C-291. 

The previous Parliament voted to force the implementation of the Refugee Appeal Division. Both the House of Commons (in 2007) and the Senate (in 2008) approved Bill C-280, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act calling for the implementation of the Refugee Appeal Division. However, the bill did not become law because the House still needed to approve the amendments made by the Senate when the 2008 elections were called. The text of Bill C-291 is the same as the previous Bill C-280 as amended by the Senate.

Bill C-291 should be adopted immediately to ensure the implementation of the Refugee Appeal Division without delay.  Join the CCR in calling on Members of Parliament to vote in favour of Bill C-291. Use the resources below to take action and to contact your Member of Parliament.

For organizations and individuals:
Call, meet with or write Members of Parliament in your area, urging them to press for rapid reintroduction and passage of Bill C-291, calling for the implementation of the Refugee Appeal Division as provided for the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.  
You can include this one-pager with your letter or give it to your MP if you meet.
For a guide on how to approach a meeting with an MP, please follow these tips on how to organize a meeting on the RAD.

For organizations - another way to take action:
Fill out this formal endorsement of Bill C-291 to encourage Members of Parliament to vote in favour of the appeal for refugees, as requested by MP Thierry St-Cyr, who is sponsoring the Bill in the House of Commons. Send it to Mr St-Cyr at the address listed.  He will use endorsements from organizations to call on MPs to vote in favour of Bill C-291.

Background information

The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act approved by Parliament in 2001 created the Refugee Appeal Division. However in 2002, the government implemented the Act but not the sections that give refugee claimants the right to appeal to the Refugee Appeal Division.

For nearly seven years, refugee claimants in Canada have been denied the appeal that Parliament granted them in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. Instead their fate is determined by a single decision maker in a system never approved by Parliament.  Correcting this injustice is long overdue.

For more information on the Refugee Appeal Division and what you can do, see: http://www.ccrweb.ca/eng/campaigns/RADaction.htm

  1. Supreme Court declines to hear legal challenge of Canada-US Safe Third Country Agreement

In early February, the Supreme Court of Canada denied leave in the case challenging the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement led by the Canadian Council for Refugees, Amnesty International and the Canadian Council of Churches.  The Supreme Court of Canada was being asked to determine whether the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement is unconstitutional and violates refugees’ rights.

The organizations were appealing the Federal Court of Appeal’s ruling on the Safe Third Country Agreement. The appeal court overturned an earlier Federal Court decision which struck down the Agreement on the grounds that the United States does not comply with international human rights obligations.  The Federal Court of Appeal did not dispute the lower court’s finding of non-compliance: instead it ruled that the conclusion “that the US does not 'actually' comply is irrelevant.”

The courts have therefore permitted the continued operation of the Safe Third Country Agreement, despite the fact that the only court to rule on the question found that the US is in violation of its obligations not to send refugees back to persecution, or anyone back to torture.
The CCR and allies will be seeking other avenues to challenge the unjust removal of refugee claimants to the US.

The organizations and John Doe launched the legal challenge to the Safe Third Country Agreement in December 2005.  Under the Agreement, most refugee claimants arriving in Canada at the US border are ineligible to make a claim in Canada. The organizations argued that some of those denied entry to Canada are not able to receive protection in the US, because the US does not comply with its international obligations towards refugees.

For a copy of the press release from the CCR, Amnesty International and the Canadian Council of Churches, see: http://ccrweb.ca/en/bulletin/09/02/05

For more information about the CCR’s campaign on the Canada-US Safe Third Country Agreement, see: http://ccrweb.ca/S3C.htm

  1. Call on government to sponsor stateless refugees from Iraq

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) recently announced that Canada would be increasing the resettlement of Iraqi refugees in 2009 and is allocating extra resources to the Canadian visa post in Damascus to do this.  This is good news: it is an additional commitment that will not affect the number of refugees resettled from other regions.

However, the CCR is deeply concerned that the Canadian government has not responded to a special appeal made by the United Nations for resettlement for Palestinians fleeing Iraq.  The Palestinians are held in camps in barren desert regions in the Iraq-Syria border area and are therefore particularly vulnerable.  Canadian private sponsorship groups are stepping forward to resettle these refugees, but so far the Canadian government has declined to accept any under the government program.

The CCR wrote to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration in November 2008 urging that the government respond to the appeal from the UN.  No reply has yet been received.

Join the CCR in asking Canada to resettle 50 Palestinian families from camps in the Iraq-Syria border area. Here are suggestions for a letter to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration.

For a copy of the government’s announcement, see Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s news release ‘Canada to double number of Iraqi refugees’ from 11 February 2009: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/department/media/releases/2009/2009-02-11.asp

For the report of an international delegation that visited the Palestinian camps, see:
www.ccrweb.ca/documents/reportpalestinians.htm

To view a slide presentation about Palestinian refugees stranded on the Iraq-Syria border, see: http://ccrweb.ca/en/view/palestinians

For more information about the CCR’s call for an increased Canadian response to the Iraqi refugee crisis, see: http://www.ccrweb.ca/iraq.htm

  1. April 4th is Refugee Rights Day: 40 years of the refugee convention in Canada

Recognizing Successes, Acting for ChangeApril 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.
In 2009, the CCR invites you to use Refugee Rights Day to mark the 40th anniversary of the Refugee Convention in Canada using the theme ‘Recognizing success, Acting for change’.  Forty years ago, in June 1969, Canada signed the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (the Refugee Convention).

Canadians can be proud of many accomplishments to protect refugees over the past 40 years, but there is still a lot to do to protect refugee rights in Canada.  Check the CCR’s Refugee Rights Day webpage next week: 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. Make plans to attend the CCR Spring Consultation in Quebec City, 28-30 May 2009

Save the dates!: The 2009 CCR Spring Consultation will take place in Quebec City, 28-30 May.  The theme of the Consultation will be “Protecting refugees and immigrants in hard times”. Details about the Consultation, including registration information, will be posted on the CCR website at: http://www.ccrweb.ca/eng/about/meetings.htm in mid-March.