1 November 2007
Hon. Stockwell Day, PC, MP, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
Hon. Diane Finley, PC, MP, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration
Hon. Rob Nicholson, PC, MP, Attorney General of Canada
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON, K1A 0A6
We are writing to express our grave concern about the arrest of US humanitarian worker Janet Hinshaw-Thomas on charges of human smuggling.
As leaders of faith communities deeply committed to justice for refugees, we are compelled to speak out about our obligation to assist our fellow human beings who are fleeing persecution. Helping someone to make a refugee claim in Canada is not only a response to this call to assist others but also, we believe, consistent with the fundamental objectives of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and with the best elements in Canada’s humanitarian traditions.
The possibility that the humanitarian act of assisting refugees can be treated as a criminal activity with a maximum punishment of life imprisonment is a serious flaw in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.
Some representatives of our faith communities raised concerns about the possibility of such charges while the Act was before Parliament. The government at that time gave assurances that the provision would not be used against persons acting on humanitarian motives. The recent arrest of Janet Hinshaw-Thomas demonstrates the contrary.
The fact that she faces the prospect of a trial and a criminal conviction for her act of compassion towards others is clearly an injustice. We are also mindful of the effect these charges have on others who are helping to protect refugees. Individuals and organizations serving refugees must now live with the fear of criminal charges, instead of being honoured for working to uphold Canada’s humanitarian ideals.
We urge you to ensure that the charges against Janet Hinshaw-Thomas are dropped and to adopt appropriate regulatory and legislative changes so that in the future those with humanitarian motives who assist refugee claimants will be excluded from these charges.
Rev. Bruce Adema
Director of Canadian Ministries
Christian Reformed Church in North America
Dr. Ken Bellous
Baptist Convention of Ontario & Quebec
Most Rev. Roger Ébacher
Archbishop of Gatineau
And Chairman of the Human Rights Committee
Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops
Rabbi Edward Elkin
First Narayever Congregation, Toronto
Sister Donna Geernaert SC
President, Canadian Religious Conference
The Most Reverend Fred Hiltz
Archbishop and Primate
Anglican Church of Canada
The Rev Susan C. Johnson
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada
The Rev Dr J.H. Hans Kouwenberg
Moderator of the 133rd General Assembly
Presbyterian Church in Canada
Svetlana S. MacDonald
Canadian Friends Service Committee (Quakers)
Dr Gary Nelson
Canadian Baptist Ministries (CBM)
Mennonite Central Committee Canada
General Secretary, General Council
United Church of Canada