Canadian Council for Refugees E-Chronicle Vol. 4 #4, 6 July 2009

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CONTENTS:

  1. CCR on World Refugee Day: An opportunity to focus on refugees’ realities
  2. Great initiative!: Surrey City Council adopts resolution calling for elimination of the refugee transportation loans program
  3. Government Review of Safe Third Country Designation
  4. Impacts of New Canadian Citizenship Rules: First impressions
  5. Refugee Appeal Division bill stuck in House of Commons Committee
  6. Update on refugees in Guantanamo
  7. Announcing: CCR Summer Working Group meetings, 11-12 September 2009, Montreal
  8. New from the CCR

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  1. CCR on World Refugee Day: An opportunity to focus on refugees’ realities

On June 20th, the Canadian Council for Refugees invited Canadians to mark World Refugee Day, celebrated this year on the theme ‘Real People, Real Needs’. 
Refugees in Canada struggle daily with problems that could be easily solved if Canadians worked to bring about some simple changes.  Two of these problems are the threat faced by refugee claimants of forced return to persecution, and the huge burden of repaying transportation loans, faced by resettled refugees.

Refugees who make a claim in Canada have a real need for protection.  Canada’s refugee determination system must first and foremost ensure that no refugee is sent back to persecution.  Although the core of Canada’s system is excellent and has become a model for protection internationally, it has a major flaw because an appeal for refugees has not been implemented and errors therefore go uncorrected.

World Refugee Day is also a time to recognize the challenges that continue to face refugees who have been resettled to Canada, including repayment of loans, with interest, for travel and medical expenses.  The Canadian Council for Refugees is urging the government to assume the costs of transportation and medical expenses, thus eliminating the burden on refugees of these loans.

For more information on the refugee appeal, see http://www.ccrweb.ca/RADpage.htm or item d) below.

For more information on realities of refugee claimants, see Lives in the Balance, http://www.ccrweb.ca/documents/refugeeclaimsFAQ.pdf

For the full text of the CCR’s press release on World Refugee Day, see: http://ccrweb.ca/en/bulletin/09/06/19

For more information on the repayment of refugee transportation loans see the next item.

  1. Great initiative!: Surrey City Council adopts resolution calling for elimination of the refugee transportation loans program

End the burden of transportation loansOn 29 June 2009, Surrey City Council in British Columbia adopted a motion calling on the federal government to cancel all outstanding transportation loans and to cease seeking repayment for refugees’ transportation and medical costs. 

The resolution is to be submitted to the Lower Mainland Local Government Association.  Let’s hope this association will broaden the call (and take the opportunity to include mention of privately sponsored refugees, who also bear the burden of transportation loans).

One of the motivations behind the Surrey City Council’s decision was a recently published report, At Home in Surrey? The Housing Experience of Refugees in Surrey, B.C.  This report documents the impacts of transportation loan repayment on refugee families and their chances for success.  Similar research is available for other cities and we have now listed some references on the CCR’s transportation loans webpage at: http://www.ccrweb.ca/transportationloans.htm#research

We encourage organizations across Canada to approach municipal councils and urge them to follow the example of Surrey’s City Council.

For a copy of the motion passed by Surrey City Council, see: http://www.ccrweb.ca/documents/Surreyresolution.pdf

For recent media coverage on transportation loans for refugees, see:

Gov't program leaves refugees out of work, deeply in debt, Edmonton Journal, 6 July 2009: http://tinyurl.com/mzqu4q

Fees for refugees unfair, group says, Toronto Star, 3 July 2009: www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/660211

For more ideas on acting to end the burden of transportation loans for refugees, see: www.ccrweb.ca/transportationloans.htm.  See also information below (under New from the CCR) about transportation loan campaign postcards.

  1. Government review of safe third country designation

Canada-US Safe Third Country AgreementCitizenship and Immigration Canada has posted a Report on the Review of the designation of the United States as a Safe Third Country on its website, dated June 2009.  By law, the government is required to ensure “continuing review” of a country designated as safe.  However, this is the first time a review has been conducted since implementation of the Safe Third Country Agreement in 2004.

In the report, the government finds the US still safe for refugees: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/resources/publications/safe-third.asp

  1. Impacts of New Canadian Citizenship Rules: First impressions

statelessness in CanadaThe House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration recently undertook a short study of the impacts of changes to the Citizenship Act, which took effect in April 2009.

The new law is intended to resolve some of the situations of "lost Canadians", but these measures create a new category of "stateless Canadians" by denying Canadians the right to pass on their citizenship if they are citizens born outside Canada to a Canadian citizen parent.  The CCR is deeply concerned that this will lead to children of Canadian citizens being born stateless.

The Committee notes the risk of statelessness, but unfortunately does not recommend changes to prevent children of Canadian citizens being born stateless.

The Committee’s report can be found at: http://tinyurl.com/ndwty4

Check out the profiles of affected families as highlighted in the article, Changes to Citizenship Act cut many loose: Children of Canadians living abroad could be stateless as a result of changes, http://tinyurl.com/n6dvps, Daphne Bramham, Vancouver Sun, 29 June 2009.  (note: the information about recourses for a child denied Canadian citizenship is not completely accurate: not so surprising, as the law is extremely complicated).

For the CCR’s analysis on the impacts of these changes to the Citizenship Act, see: http://www.ccrweb.ca/documents/citizenship09.htm

For more information about statelessness, see: CCR, Statelessness and Canada: An introduction, March 2009, http://www.ccrweb.ca/documents/statelessnessprimerEN.pdf

  1. Refugee Appeal Division bill stuck in House of Commons Committee

Refugee Appeal DivisionThe Liberals and Conservatives continue to work together to block Bill C-291 in the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration.  Despite efforts to pass this bill to force implementation of the Refugee Appeal Division, it remains at the committee stage until Parliament resumes in the fall.

Refugees need the appeal in order to protect them from being sent back to face persecution following an error in the determination of their claim.  Canada needs the refugee appeal in order to comply with our international human rights obligations not to refoule refugees.

The CCR has written to the Liberal members of the Standing Committee expressing dismay at this reversal of the Party’s support for the refugee appeal: http://www.ccrweb.ca/documents/RADlettersjune09.htm 

For more commentary on the obstacles in passing the bill, read the article, NDP, Bloc accuse Liberals of stalling refugee bill, Xtra, 22 June 2009, http://tinyurl.com/m2js3k

For more information, about the Refugee Appeal Division, see: http://www.ccrweb.ca/eng/campaigns/RADaction.htm

  1. Update on refugees in Guantanamo

Djamel AmezianeFive men detained in Guantanamo continue to hope that refugee sponsorship by groups in Canada will provide them an avenue to freedom and security (including Djamel Ameziane, shown left).  Their applications are being processed: the next step is for a Canadian visa officer to interview them.  This requires that the US authorities grant access to the detainees in Guantanamo, something they have so far been slow to do.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has reportedly declined a request from the US to accept some of the Uighur detainees.   See for example, CBC, Canada refuses U.S. request to accept Chinese Muslims from Guantanamo, 5 June, http://tinyurl.com/r98rlx

The Prime Minister was giving a response to a political request.  This does not affect the refugee sponsorship applications, which are being processed in the normal fashion in accordance with the law.

For the CCR release announcing the five sponsorships, see Canadian groups ready to welcome refugees resettled from Guantanamo, 10 February 2009, http://ccrweb.ca/en/bulletin/09/02/10

  1. Announcing: CCR Summer Working Group meetings, 11-12 September 2009, Montreal

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 to share information and strategies with others from across Canada?  Come to the CCR Summer Working Group meetings in Montreal!

Moving forward on issues, Getting involved:  The Working Group meetings are a chance to:

  • advance many of the projects and positions adopted during CCR Consultations.
  • look at issues in greater depth and plan local and national actions, all in a setting that encourages greater individual participation.
  • become more involved in CCR activities at the national level, lending your experience and perspectives to the CCR’s work.

Networking, Learning: The Working Group meetings provide an excellent opportunity to:

  • get to know others working on issues affecting refugees and immigrants.
  • see links between many issues nationally and locally, and how they are relevant to our work with refugees and immigrants.

When: 11-12 September 2008, 9:30am - 5 pm
Where: St. James the Apostle Church, 1439 Ste Catherine Street West, Montreal
Who: All interested NGO representatives and individuals.  The CCR encourages broad participation.  The meetings are closed to government and media. 

For more information and for a copy of the Working Group promotional pamphlet, see: http://www.ccrweb.ca/eng/about/meetings.htm

  1. New from the CCR
    • CCR Spring Consultation Report now available online

inhardtimesAre you looking for details from a workshop at the CCR Spring Consultation in Quebec City? 
You couldn’t make it and you’re looking to stay informed?  Want to know the recommendations and suggested actions from the Consultation sessions?

Good news!  The report from the CCR Spring Consultation Protecting refugees and immigrants in hard times in Quebec City, 28 - 30 May 2009 is now available online at: http://www.ccrweb.ca/documents/consmay09report.pdf

    • Lives in the Balance webpage + pre-order printed copies of booklet

Lives in the BalanceCanada’s refugee determination system has been the subject of recent public commentary, much of it focusing on “abuse” and alleged problems in the system. The realities of refugees in the system have received less attention.

Last month, the Canadian Council for Refugees issued some answers to current questions and concerns about the system, as well as information about a few of the individuals in the system, in its publication, Lives in the Balance: Understanding current challenges to the refugee claim process.

This publication is designed to increase public awareness about – and support for – refugee claimants, and the refugee claim process.  Please use widely!

Now available: a web version of Lives in the Balance, at http://www.ccrweb.ca/livesinthebalance.htm.

Looking for Lives in the Balance in print?  Pre-order copies of the 8-page booklet today.  Complete and submit the publications order form at: http://www.ccrweb.ca/documents/publicationsorderform.pdf

To preview the revised version, see: http://www.ccrweb.ca/documents/refugeeclaimsFAQ.pdf

    • CCR YouTube channel

Looking for refugee and immigrant rights-related videos from the Canadian Council for Refugees in one handy spot?  Check out the CCR’s new video channel at: http://www.youtube.com/ccrwebvideos  

You’ll find short videos on:

    • The need for speedy family reunification
    • Long delays in processing refugee claims
    • The need to absorb transportation loans for refugees
    • The challenges and hopes of refugee and immigrant youth

… More to come

    • Postcard campaign: End the burden of transportation loans – pre-order yours today

transportation loansA few months ago we launched and asked you to join a letter-writing campaign demanding that the government absorb the costs of transportation loans for refugees.  Now we are going one step further, and you can too.

Available soon: Postcards depicting the effects of transportation loans on refugees in Canada.  Encourage participants at your next event to send them to the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration and their own Member of Parliament.

Pre-order copies from the CCR office using the order form at: http://www.ccrweb.ca/documents/publicationsorderform.pdf

For other ideas to support the transportation loans campaign to end the burden of transportation loans, see: http://www.ccrweb.ca/transportationloans.htm

And join the transportation loans Facebook group at: http://tinyurl.com/msq8dt