8 January 2004

Montreal. The Canadian Council for Refugees today expressed concern that the Prime Minister’s restructuring of government is damaging to refugees and undermines Canada’s tradition of openness towards those seeking our protection.

Under new provisions, quietly announced by the Government just before Christmas, the way in which refugee claims are handled is being changed. “We are concerned that, instead of treating refugee claimants as people needing Canada’s protection from persecution, they will now be treated as potential threats to Canadian security,” says Nick Summers, CCR President.  “It is disappointing to find the new government weakening the structures that protect refugees, particularly as the changes are being slipped through without public discussion.”

On 12 December 2003, immigration enforcement activities were transferred from Citizenship and Immigration Canada to the newly created Canada Border Services Agency, which reports to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.  Pre-removal risk assessments are among the functions transferred, even though these reviews exist to protect claimants, not as a measure of enforcement.  Discussions are currently underway on whether to also transfer port of entry functions, which include the initial interview and eligibility decision for refugee claimants.  If these functions are also transferred, there will be virtually no remaining functions at Citizenship and Immigration Canada dealing with claimants, even though the government’s 12 December announcement declared that “Protecting the interests of immigrants and refugees remains the responsibility of Citizenship and Immigration.”

“How can anyone expect an agency whose primary mandate is enforcement and stopping people at the border to be credible when it comes to protecting refugees?” asks Summers.


Nick Summers, President, 709-753-7860 (ext. 333) or cell. 709-682-9329
Janet Dench, Executive Director, 514-277-7223

The Canadian Council for Refugees is a non-profit umbrella organization committed to the rights and protection of refugees in Canada and around the world and to the settlement of refugees and immigrants in Canada. The membership is made up of over 175 organizations involved in refugee sponsorship and protection and in newcomer settlement. The CCR serves the networking, information-exchange and advocacy needs of its membership.