Canadian Council for Refugees
For immediate release
3 March 2010
Minister’s comments on refugee claims inappropriate and damaging
The Canadian Council for Refugees today expressed dismay at recent media comments made by Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Jason Kenney (CTV, March 2, 2010, Refugee claims from Olympics 'ridiculous': minister, http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20100302/olympic_re…).
“We are very troubled that the Minister, in prejudging refugee claims, fails to respect the mandate of the independent tribunal that is responsible for making refugee determinations, the Immigration and Refugee Board,” said Wanda Yamamoto, President. “The Minister’s statement that there can’t be genuine refugees from Hungary amounts to judicial interference and undermines the the rule of law.”
In early 2009, the CCR wrote to the Minister to express concerns about similar public statements on war resisters: http://www.ccrweb.ca/documents/warresistersjan09.htm
Among the responsibilities of the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration is upholding Canada’s international obligations towards refugees and promoting public support for refugees. Of course the Minister is free to comment on what he views as weaknesses in Canada’s refugee determination system, but negative public comments that are prejudicial to judicial independence only undermine Canada’s credibility as a country committed to protecting refugees.
The CCR also notes that the Minister appears to be ignorant about his own program. Contrary to his statement, claimants do not have the right to either a work permit or health care after they have withdrawn or abandoned their refugee claim. They are also unlikely to get access to welfare benefits anywhere in Canada, although this is a matter under provincial jurisdiction.
Colleen French, Communication Coordinator, (514) 277-7223, ext. 1