Minister's comments undermine refugee protection

3 Mar 2010

Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Jason Kenney has once again made damaging and inappropriate comments about refugee claimants and Canada’s refugee claim process (CTV, March 2, 2010, Refugee claims from Olympics 'ridiculous': minister).

  • The Minister has given his opinion that there can’t be genuine refugees from Hungary.  In Canada the Immigration and Refugee Board, an independent tribunal, is responsible for making refugee determinations.  When the Minister voices his opinion, it looks like political interference, and is as inappropriate as it would be for a Minister of Justice to say that he thought an accused person facing criminal charges was guilty.  The CCR earlier wrote to the Minister to express dismay about similar public pronouncements on war resisters.
  • The Immigration and Refugee Board in fact found in 2008 that 22 Hungarian claimants were refugees.  Is the Minister saying the Board was wrong?  Is the Minister warning Board members that they shouldn’t accept Hungarians in the future?  Bear in mind that the Minister, along with his Cabinet colleagues, decides whether Board members are reappointed or not at the end of their term.
  • The Minister seems to be confused about his own program: claimants do not have the right to either a work permit or health care after they have withdrawn or abandoned their refugee claim.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.
  • 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 must be attentive to weaknesses in Canada’s  refugee determination system, but public comments that are unbalanced, ill-informed and prejudicial only undermine Canada’s credibility as a country committed to protecting refugees.


You can send comments to the Honourable Jason Kenney at