Step 1: Collecting petition signatures (optional)
Organize an event or table at relevant community events/locations to collect signatures for the Petition regarding Canada's treatment of non-citizen children. (See details about petitions) and to raise awareness of how we should treat children in Canada who aren’t citizens.
Need ideas of what to do to collect signatures? Check out the national flashmob on children rights!
Step 2: Getting a meeting with your MP
Find out how to contact your MP – click here.
Try to arrange a meeting of at least 30 minutes. Make sure you know how much time your MP has given to you and don’t plan for more. (Be aware, though, that timelines can change – sometimes the MP is running late and cuts it short, sometimes the MP is interested and lets the discussion go on longer).
Step 3: Planning your meeting
- Gather a group of 2-3 people (preferably people who live in the MP’s riding)
- Try to include at least one person who is personally affected by an issue you are raising.
- Decide on 1-2 key issues that you want to discuss during your meeting. We have prepared materials to help you talk about children in detention and family reunification. However, your group might be more interested in talking about other important issues. Here are a few other suggestions:
> Canada adopt a national policy to take care of separated refugee children;
> Canada protect trafficked children;
> Canada change the Citizenship Act so that no child of a Canadian citizen is stateless;
> Canada deports children without considering their best interests
- If possible, try to find out what your MP thinks or has said on immigration issues. Go to: http://www.parl.gc.ca/ or http://openparliament.ca/ for more information on how s/he has voted and what s/he has said in the House of Commons. You can also try a google search. We may also have information at the CCR office, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Review these relevant CCR resources for important discussion points and additional information (but remember, you don’t have to be an expert to have an opinion!):
> CCR Web Pages
o Children and Youth Rights under the Canadian Immigration System
o Family reunification
o (Detention) Bill C-4 : An unprecedented attack on the rights of refugees
o Protecting trafficked persons in Canada
o Canada’s Stateless Children
- Make sure that everyone in your group is comfortable discussing the points and information that you will bring up during your meeting.
- Plan who will lead on the different points in the meeting agenda.
- Prepare and gather relevant documents that you will give to your MP during your meeting.
> Petition signatures that you’ve collected
> 2 pager - Canada has work to do
> Backgrounder - Canada's Treatment of Non-citizen Children
> Refugees in Africa: Are we being fair? (Depending on if you are addressing this issue)
> Your card or contact information
- Practice with your group! It’s worth your time.
- Plan your remarks carefully and be selective. You can’t hope to communicate everything. It is better for the MP to go away with a clear message, than to be confused by too much information.
Step 4: During the meeting
Note: you can also download the meeting plan in a Word document by clicking here.
Keep your comments brief to leave time for an engaging discussion with the MP. Ask them for their commitments, instead of presenting to the MP for the entire meeting. Insist on straight answers as much as possible. Does your representative agree or disagree with you?
This structure is meant to serve as a guideline, not as a rigid approach to your meeting with the MP.
a) Introduction / Ice Breaker (1 minute)
- Thank the MP for the opportunity to speak to them. Present yourself and if you live/work/go to school in the constituency.
- Explain your connection to and your concerns with refugee and immigration issues.
- If you participated in the national flashmob for non-citizen children rights, talk about what you did and how many people came.(but keep it brief!)
b) Identify the Issues (1 minute)
- You would like to discuss your concerns about the rights of non-citizen children in Canada, especially as it relates to child detention and family reunification.
- In 2012, the UN is examining Canada on its respect of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. When it comes to refugee and immigrant children, Canada can do better.
- We are glad that Canadian immigration law now makes some reference to children’s best interests, but unfortunately, despite this, Canada still too often ignores the basic rights of immigrant and refugee children. In the past, the UN Committee has criticized Canada’s treatment of refugee and immigrant children.
- Urge your MP to take urgent action so that Canada respects fully the best interests of children in the immigration process.
c) Present what is at stake (8-10 minutes)
- Give the MP a copy of Canada has work to do, the backgrounder, and the DVD.Explain that these materials are for their own information and to share with other MPs. All materials are also available online.
Examples of how Canada does not respect the rights of immigrant and refugee children: :
- The Convention on the Rights of the Child and Canadian law say that children should only be detained as a matter of last resort.
- But detention of children in Canada is NOT limited to exceptional circumstances, and their best interests are not always taken into consideration.
- In Canada, children are routinely held in immigration detention, for weeks and even months at a time (Canada detained 330 minors for immigration purposes in just one recent year (2008-2009)).
- For example, over 40 children who arrived on BC shores by boat in the summer of 2010 (MV Sun Sea) were detained, although they had just spent 3 months on a dangerous boat trip. Over 4 months later, some of those children were still in detention. (Or give a local example).
- Research in Canada and other countries (e.g. UK and Australia) has proven that immigration detention has serious negative mental health impacts on children. If bill C-4 is adopted (currently at second reading in Parliament), some children will be jailed for a minimum of 12 months without independent review. This is arbitrary detention, which is contrary to the Charter and to international law.
- Detention is NOT in the best interest of children. The government should find viable alternatives to keeping children in immigration detention.
- Urge your MP to call for the withdrawal of Bill C-4 (if s/he represents the Conservative Party) OR to vote against Bill C-4 (if s/he is a member of an opposition party). (Don’t engage in discussions of amendments: C-4 has too many fundamental problems and needs to be scrapped.)
- The Convention on the Rights of the Child says that applications for family reunification should be dealt with in a positive, humane and expeditious manner.
- But children often wait years in dangerous situations before they are allowed to travel to Canada to be reunited with their families. Many of these children are children of refugees.
- The longest wait times are for children in Africa. For example, half the cases of children of refugees processed in Nairobi take more than 23 monthsyears. For children, 2 years is a lifetime! Many children wait even longer.
- If you can, give a local example.
- Urge your MP to take action for urgent intervention to speed up family reunification and address the long delays at Nairobi.
d) Present the petition
- Present the petition signatures after you talk about the issues. Mention how many signatures you have, where they were collected, and if some signatories are from your MP’s riding.
Note: A minimum of 25 petition-signers must live in the riding of your MP, and must have Canadian citizenship.
e) Questions from your MP
- Your MP may have questions about non-citizen children rights. Refer to the backgrounder. If you don’t know the answer to all questions, don’t worry. You can offer to find out and get back to the MP.
f) Solutions/Requests to MP (1 1/2 minutes)
Ask your MP for concrete action.
1. Ask your MP to present your petition in the House of Commons
***Note: Your MP must request that the Petitions Clerk at Parliament certify your petition. Once the petition and petition signatures have been certified, the petition is sent back to the MP. At this stage, your MP can present the petition in Parliament; however, there is no formal deadline by which it must be presented to Parliament. After the meeting, be sure to follow up with your MP: What stage is your petition at in Parliament?
2. Ask your MP to work with other MPs to find ways to give higher priority to rights of children in all immigration matters.
*Try to leave the meeting with at least one commitment from your MP.*
g) Thank You and Follow-up (1 minute)
• Thank your MP for his/her time. Recap the commitments made and promise to follow up with their office.
Step 5 : After the meeting
- Send a letter to thank your MP for the meeting and include any additional information from your discussion. Respond to any other points that you had agreed to during the meeting.
- Send a brief summary of your meeting, the number of signatures you presented to your MP (if applicable), any commitments your MP made and any follow-up questions or actions to the CCR at: email@example.com
Some Useful Resources:
Apathy is Boring Resources: