Parliament denies refugees appeal on the merits

11 Dec 2009

Yesterday, December 10, the House of Commons celebrated Human Rights Day by defeating Bill C-291, the bill that would give refugee claimants access to an appeal on the merits.

It is not clear how many Members of Parliament saw the irony - immediately after announcing the defeat of the bill, the Speaker wished everyone the best for the Christmas season.

He wasn't thinking about Grise, the young woman brutally murdered earlier this year in Mexico, who might be alive today if Canada had a refugee appeal.

He wasn't thinking about the refugee families who perhaps right now are facing deportation because their claim was wrongly rejected.  They may be spending Christmas at risk of persecution in their home countries, or maybe seeking sanctuary in a church, if they can find one willing to offer the protection that the Canadian government fails to provide.

Meanwhile, Minister Jason Kenney was celebrating the defeat of Bill C-291 on Twitter, telling us that it "avoids adding yet another appeal level" and saves thousands of dollars - "a victory for taxpayers".

In another irony, a few tweets earlier Minister Kenney referred to the St Louis, the boat with fleeing Jewish refugees turned away from North America 70 years ago, leading to the murder of most of the passengers in the Holocaust.

We weep over the shameful past failures to protect refugees but learn nothing about the care we owe to refugees today who seek our protection.