The countdown is on ... the International Conference on Refugee Rights is only a few weeks away! Anyone interested in refugee rights and networking across borders to promote those rights is warmly invited to join us at York University in Toronto from 17-19 June 2006. Members of non-governmental organizations from South Africa, Palestine, Kenya, Lebanon, Iran, the Philippines, Brazil and Australia will be with us, to name just >a few! Special registration rates are available for refugee and youth delegates. For more details, including the conference program and registration rates, see www.web.ca/ccr/intconf.htm.
A Day of Action on the Lives on Hold campaign took place in Ottawa on May 9th. 35 people, of whom the majority were people without status, traveled from Montreal to Ottawa to ask for permanent residence for people from moratorium countries. Events in Ottawa included a press conference; a meeting with the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Monte Solberg; meetings with MPs from all parties (25 in all); a meeting with CIC officials; a reception at Parliament, attended by further MPs and where we showed a 10 minute video ‘Lives on Hold – Des Vies en suspens’; the tabling of the ‘Lives on Hold’ petition which has been signed by more than 4,400 supporters; and a statement and a question to the Minister during Question Period.
We received many commitments of support from MPs of all parties, and we expect to see the issue raised at the parliamentary Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration.
As follow up from this meeting, we encourage organizations and individuals to write letters to the Minister. We also want to submit more petition signatures, in order to keep up the pressure (new deadline 15 September 2006). A new model letter and an updated petition following on from the Day of Action are available at: www.web.ca/ccr/livesonhold.htm.
Copies of the bilingual 10-minute ‘Lives on Hold – Des vies en suspens’ DVD are available for order at $5 (includes shipping and handling) by emailing email@example.com. It is a great advocacy and awareness-raising tool for this campaign.
Background to the ‘Lives on Hold’ campaign:
Canada imposes a moratorium on removals of people to certain countries because of situations of generalized insecurity there. This means that people from Afghanistan, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Iraq, Liberia, Rwanda and Zimbabwe are not deported, but they are living in legal limbo in Canada and unable to get on with their lives. The ‘Lives on Hold’ campaign calls on the Canadian government to grant permanent residence to nationals of moratoria countries who have been in Canada for three years or more.
On May 11, the Canadian government announced new measures to protect victims of human trafficking. Under this new scheme, immigration officers will be able to issue temporary residence permits of 120 days to these victims, who will also be eligible for health-care benefits under the Interim Federal Health program.
The CCR welcomed this announcement and urges the government to ensure that trafficked persons on Temporary Resident Permits have access to all necessary services, such as social assistance. It is also important to develop long-term protection measures for those people for whom staying in Canada is the best option, as well as to ensure appropriate awareness-raising, training and coordination of all relevant actors, including various levels of government, police forces, NGOs and service providers.
For the text of the announcement, see: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/department/media/releases/2006/0602-e.asp
For the CCR’s reaction, see: www.web.ca/ccr/release11May06traff.htm
A backgrounder on trafficking issues prepared by the CCR in November 2004 is available at: www.web.ca/ccr/traffbackgrounder.html
On 12 May, the Bloc Québécois tabled a bill calling for the implementation of the Refugee Appeal Division as provided under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act since 2002. The Bloc Québécois has issued a press release coinciding with the tabling of this bill. It can be found (in French only) at: www.blocquebecois.org/fr/presse_detail.asp?ID=9957425
The text of the bill can be found at: www.parl.gc.ca/39/1/parlbus/chambus/house/bills/private/C-280/C-280_1/C-280-3E.html
Highlighting the need for the Refugee Appeal Division and for balance in the present system which relies on the decision-making discretion of a single Board member, a new book of fiction on Canada’s asylum system entitled Refugee Sandwich: stories of exile and asylum by Peter Showler has just been released by McGill Queens University Press. This series of short stories seeks to unveil the realities of the hearing rooms of the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB). The central theme of the book is the difficulty of proving and deciding refugee cases, first for refugees but also for IRB members. The stories are told from various points of view, including refugees, IRB members, an interpreter, a Federal Court judge. The book concludes with a non-fiction chapter that describes Canada’s current refugee system, highlighting its strengths and weaknesses and recommending some essential reforms – including a genuine appeal process.
Peter is happy to do readings from the book or participate in discussions as a way to highlight the need for the appeal. For more information about the book, please go to www.mqup.mcgill.ca/book.php?bookid=1975
10% of the proceeds of the book will be donated to the Canadian Council for Refugees.
Chantal Tie and Geraldine Sadoway represented the CCR at recent hearings by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Geneva as part of the Committee’s examination of Canada. The CCR report addressed major concerns including family separation and how Canada discriminates against non-citizens in distributing government benefits and services and its failure to respect the rights of temporary workers to organize and bargain collectively.
Consistent with some of the issues raised by the CCR, in its interim report the Committee expressed its concern that “...poverty rates remain very high among disadvantaged and marginalized individuals and groups, such as [… ] immigrants […]” With regards to the rights of temporary workers and collective bargaining, “[t]he Committee recommends that [Canada] take steps to ensure access to employment insurance benefits, enjoyment of trade union rights and effective protection by labour standards for workers in precarious, part-time and temporary low wage jobs in the State party, particularly women.”
The Committee’s report on Canada is available in full at: http://www.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cescr/docs/E.C.12.CAN.CO.5.pdf
For a CCR media release announcing our report, see: www.web.ca/ccr/releaseCESCRMay06.html
For a copy of the CCR report, see: www.web.ca/ccr/CESCRsubmission.pdf
For supporting background information, see: www.web.ca/ccr/CESCRbackgrounder.pdf
The Supreme Court has granted permission to the coalition of which the CCR is part to make oral arguments in the three security certificate cases to be heard in June (Adil Charkaoui, Mohamed Harkat and Hassan Almrei). The other members of the coalition, which has intervenor status in the three cases, are African Canadian Legal Clinic, International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group and National Anti-Racism Council of Canada.
One of the people held on security certificates, Mohamed Harkat, had good news on May 23, when the Federal Court ordered that he be released on bail. The judge found that there had been unexplained delay in processing his case, leading to prolonged detention, that he would not be removed in the near future, that release without conditions would pose a threat to safety but that the threat could be balanced by a series of conditions. The bail conditions set for Mr Harkat are stricter than those for Mr Charkaoui. The decision and details of Mr Harkat’s bail conditions are available at: www.fct-cf.gc.ca/bulletins/whatsnew/whatsnew_e.shtml. Unfortunately, the government has since appealed the order to release Mr Harkat so the question will have to be fought out further in the courts before he has a chance of release.
Good news! The Canadian government has decided that it will put an end to direct backs effective 31 August 2006. The CCR has been strenuously opposed to the use of “direct backs” since January 2003 when Canada started directing back claimants at the US-Canada border without regard to whether they would be detained by the US (see www.web.ca/ccr/directbacks.html).
The CCR joined with other organizations to make a complaint about direct backs to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in 2004. See www.web.ca/ccr/petition.html. A decision on that petition is still pending.
One year and five months after the agreement’s entry into force, the Canadian and US governments have still not released their reports on the effects of the Agreement, even though the Agreement specifically requires a review “not later than 12 months from the date of entry into force” of the Agreement. Researchers from Harvard University echoed these concerns in a report released at the beginning of April 2006, raising the alarm that an increasing number of asylum seekers are forced to cross the Canada-US border in dangerous, clandestine circumstances.
For news coverage of these and other concerns raised in the Harvard University report, see:
For the CCR press release calling for the Canadian government to act on the findings in the report, see: www.web.ca/ccr/releasesafe3March06.html