Canadian Council for Refugees E-Chronicle Vol. 9 #6, 2 October 2014

Vol. 9 no. 6, 2 October 2014

In this issue:

  1. Border services accountability and inquest into death of Lucia Vega Jiménez

The CCR is hoping for answers from the coroner’s inquest into the death of Lucia Vega Jiménez in immigration detention. Lucia Vega Jiménez died in late December 2013 while detained by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) in Vancouver: information was not made public about this death until more than a month after it occurred.
The CCR has been granted participant status at the inquest and will be highlighting the importance of giving detainees access to non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Unlike CBSA detention centres in Montreal and Toronto, NGOs are not allowed to provide services in the CBSA detention centre in Vancouver – a rule that CCR has for years been urging CBSA to change.
The CCR is aware of the acute distress suffered by many immigration detainees, whether they are just arriving to make a refugee claim in Canada, or facing deportation, like Ms Vega Jiménez. Reports by the Canadian Red Cross based on their monitoring of detention conditions, and recently cited in the media, have also raised concerns about the impacts of detention on vulnerable persons and the need for better access to mental health services.
The inquest will necessarily be limited in its scope and will not provide answers to some questions, such as the reason for the delay in disclosing the death. This highlights once again the urgent need for an independent oversight mechanism for the CBSA. Despite its wide powers of arrest and detention, the CBSA is not subject to any external review mechanism, and those alleging abuses can only complain to the CBSA itself. Most other law enforcement agencies in Canada are subject to an independent complaints mechanism. The lack of oversight increases the risk of abuse of power by the CBSA: this is a particular concern in the case of the many vulnerable and racialized non-citizens with whom the CBSA interacts.
For further information from the CCR regarding the need for an oversight mechanism for the CBSA see:

  1. How social assistance helped Abi’s family: A reason to act against Bill C-585

Abi at workAfter arriving in Canada in August 2013 with his wife and four children, Abi was recognized as a refugee in May 2014. Not long after, Abi was hired as a manager in his field of environment, health and safety.

If Abi and his family are thriving and living in safety in Canada today, it is thanks – in part – to a boost from social assistance supplements they received for a few months at the beginning of their journey in Canada. “Without the help and support of Ontario Works, we wouldn’t have managed,” says Abi. “If anyone needs this kind of support and assistance, it is newly-arrived refugees who have lost everything and who are vulnerable.”

Bill C-585 would deny people like Abi and his family this essential support.

Currently before the House of Commons, this bill would allow provinces to reduce access to social assistance to refugee claimants and other people without permanent status in Canada. The bill is next scheduled for debate at second reading on 20 October 2014.

Are you worried about what a new law like this could mean? Talk to your Member of Parliament about what is at stake for refugees like Abi, and others that you know, who need to rely on social assistance as an essential boost on arrival in Canada.

The CCR contributed to an information and action kit by the Income Security Advocacy Centre (of Ontario). Take a look and take action:

  1. Refugees fleeing Syria: What Canada can do

Sadek volunteers in Egypt while he and his family are refugees thereWith humanitarian crises in Syria and its surrounding neighbours escalating, Canada must do more to respond to refugees.

The CCR has joined the call for a substantial commitment from Canada to resettle refugees. The CCR is also calling for Canada to introduce measures for Syrians with family in Canada, like Abdurrahman, Sadek, Zafer and Layla. On World Refugee Day in June 2014, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Chris Alexander, suggested that the Canadian government was working on a plan to respond. Summer is now over, and an announcement of the plan continues to be impatiently awaited.

Meanwhile other countries are stepping up their efforts to resettle Syrian refugees in response to appeals from the UN Refugee Agency for the coming years. Australia, which has made similar commitments to Canada in the past, has pledged to resettle at least 4,500 Syrian refugees over the next few years.
  1. Register now for the CCR Fall Consultation in Gatineau, 27-29 November 2014

Connecting communities, saving livesJoin us at the CCR Fall Consultation in Gatineau Québec from 27 to 29 November to explore questions affecting refugee protection and newcomer settlement.
François Crépeau, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, will speak to the theme Connecting communities, saving lives during the opening session. Connecting communities, saving lives allows for a focus on creating stronger connections between regions and strengthening local community support for newcomers.
Conference discussions will address issues that challenge refugees, immigrants, advocates and community workers. The Consultation will close with a question-and-answer session with the Director General of Refugees Branch of Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC).
Some of the workshop topics include:
  • Urgent protection for refugees overseas
  • The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and limits of authority
  • Access to healthcare
  • Refugees fleeing Syria and beyond
  • How to deal with negligent legal representation
  • Protection for refugees in countries of first asylum
  • How the Refugee Appeal Division (RAD) works
  • Proud to Protect Refugees: What should we say?
… and many more

Save the date! On 26 November join discussions on trafficking issues (National Forum on Trafficking Issues) and a separate training on applications to the Refugee Appeal Division by the FCJ Refugee Centre.
Information about the consultation and online registration are available at: 

egister before 7 November to take advantage of the reduced fees! 
  1. Calling for Youth Ambassadors and Speak Up! projects

Members of the CCR Youth NetworkApply to be a Youth Ambassador with the CCR Youth Network
We are looking for 6 Youth Ambassadors from across Canada to act as connectors between their region and the CCR Youth Network.

Youth Ambassadors raise awareness of newcomer youth issues, promote opportunities to get involved with the CCR among youth in their communities, help lead Youth Network projects, participate in CCR meetings and more!

To apply you need to be a self-identified migrant youth that is 25 years old or younger.

For more information about ambassador responsibilities and how to apply, check out the call for applications and apply by 9 October 2014.
Apply for a Speak Up! Grant to support newcomer youth voices in Canada
The Canadian Council for Refugees Youth Network is offering funding and support to groups of newcomer youth from across Canada to develop creative public education or advocacy resources designed to communicate the realities and concerns of refugee and immigrant youth.

Imagine… if your group was given the money and support to work with people in your community to develop that one tool you really need to get through to people around you... What would you create?

Get the application here and apply by Wednesday 15 October 2014.
  *The CCR strongly encourages applications from people of colour, gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, and queer people.
  1. New from the CCR

Upcoming Meetings

Fall Consultation 2014, Thursday, 27 November - Saturday, 29 November 2014, Gatineau

Winter Working Group meetings, Friday, 28 February and Saturday, 1 March 2015, Toronto

Spring Consultation 2015, Thursday, 21 May - Saturday, 23 May 2015, Winnipeg

New CCR Resources

Trafficking in persons for forced labour

Privately-sponsored Refugees: The basics (coming soon)