A federal election has been called for October 14th.
The CCR has asked all major political parties to respond with their positions on the following refugee and immigration issues. We will be posting the answers received by the end of September.
Please also use these questions locally during the campaign, at meetings with candidates and in discussions on the election issues (suggested actions).
1. Trafficking: Will you support the Canadian Council for Refugees’ proposal for legislative amendment to protect trafficked persons in Canada?
Background: Currently, immigration legislation provides no specific measures to protect trafficked persons. This means that trafficked persons, after being abused and exploited by their traffickers, may be simply detained and deported by the Canadian authorities. For example, this summer an 11-year-old girl, who was a suspected victim of trafficking, was detained for over a month by Canadian immigration authorities.
The Canadian Council for Refugees has developed a proposal to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act in order to provide temporary and permanent protection to trafficked persons.
For more information, including the text of the proposal, see www.trafficking.ca
2. Refugee resettlement: Will you support an increase in the numbers of refugees resettled to Canada (including Iraqi refugees)?
Background: The UN Refugee Agency has recently estimated the number of refugees in need of resettlement at 560,000, a huge increase over previous years. The Iraqi crisis has led to two million refugees fleeing to neighbouring countries. Canada has not responded in any significant way to this crisis, unlike similar situations in the past where Canada has responded with special resettlement efforts.
Meanwhile Canada is resettling significantly fewer refugees today than we were in the 1990s (average annual in 90’s: 14,600; average annual 2000-2007: 10,600).
For more information: Iraqi refugee crisis: Call for increased Canadian response, December 2007, http://www.ccrweb.ca/documents/iraqicall.pdf
UNHCR resettlement conference focuses on helping refugees at risk, 2 July 2008, http://www.unhcr.org/news/NEWS/486bacf12.html
3. Transportation loans: Will you work for the elimination of the burden on refugees of transportation loans?
Background: Refugees resettled to Canada must pay for their medical exam and their travel to Canada. Since most refugees of course can’t afford these expenses, Canada offers them a loan. As a result, refugee families start their new life in Canada with a debt of up to $10,000. They must pay interest on this loan.
The burden of the transportation loans is having a painful impact on thousands of refugees and on Canadian society. It undermines refugees’ ability to integrate and to contribute to their full potential in their new home. Refugee youth are forced work long hours while going to school, or even postpone further education, because of the need to pay back the debt.
The cost to the federal government of absorbing the medical and transportation expenses would be insignificant in terms of the overall budget. It would also be a good investment as it would enable refugees to integrate much more quickly and contribute to the economy.
For more information: Transportation Loans Backgrounder, http://www.ccrweb.ca/documents/loansEN.pdf
4. Family reunification: How will you make family reunification a priority and ensure that children are quickly reunited with their parents?
Background: In recent years, the immigration program has been increasingly oriented towards economic immigration, at the expense of family reunification. Refugee families in particular face extremely long processing times: in some visa posts, families routinely wait more than a year and a half for reunification – this includes children that are separated from both their parents. There are also barriers: for example, separated children in Canada have no right in law to reunite with their parents.
The CCR has developed a Manifesto on Family Reunification, calling for an immigration and refugee system that respects basic rights by favouring the speedy reunification of families. It calls in particular for the processing of family members of refugees, especially separated children, to be done in Canada.
For more information: www.reunification.ca.
5. Refugee Appeal: Will you work actively for the immediate implementation of the Refugee Appeal Division, as provided for in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act?
Background: The right of appeal for refugees was established in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, approved by Parliament in 2001. However, in March 2002, the government announced, without consulting Parliament, that the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act would be implemented without the sections of the Act giving refugee claimants the right to appeal to the Refugee Appeal Division (RAD).
This means that a single person decides the fate of a refugee claimant, even though a wrong decision may mean that a claimant is sent back to face persecution, torture and even death.
Canada is one of the very few countries in the world that fails to give refugee claimants an appeal on the merits, and has been criticized by the UN Refugee Agency for the lack of appeal.
In the last Parliament, Bill C-280, a private member’s bill forcing the implementation of the RAD, was passed by both the House of Commons and the Senate, but still needed a final vote by the House of Commons at the time of dissolution of Parliament.
A new government could implement the RAD immediately by its own decision.
For more information: http://www.ccrweb.ca/RADpage.htm
6. Temporary workers: Do you support re-orienting the immigration program back towards permanent rather than temporary programs? What measures would you propose to protect the rights of temporary workers?
Background: In recent years, Canada has been increasingly admitting immigrant workers on temporary work permits. Emphasis on temporary rather than permanent migration is deeply troubling because:
- Migrant workers do not have full protection of their rights and therefore are vulnerable to exploitation.
- Without permanent status, migrant workers cannot integrate into Canadian society and contribute to their full potential.
For more information, Comments on the Canadian Experience Class proposal, http://www.ccrweb.ca/documents/CECcomments.pdf
7. Independent complaints mechanism for CBSA: What would you do to support the rapid creation of an effective independent complaints mechanism for CBSA?
Background: The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) is one of the few agencies – if not the only agency – in Canada with powers of arrest and detention that is not subject to any external complaints mechanism. Since 2007, its officers are armed, yet still there has been no movement to create a review mechanism. Many of the people with whom CBSA deals are particularly vulnerable due to their insecure status in Canada and lack of connections here and/or knowledge of English or French: there is therefore a heightened potential for abuse. There are also serious concerns about profiling of Muslims and Arabs and other forms of discrimination.
The case of Benamar Benatta illustrates the pressing need for a complaints mechanism: on September 12, 2001, Canadian immigration officials illegally transferred him from Canada to the US where he was treated as a suspect in the September 11 attacks, and held in detention for nearly 5 years, despite the fact that he was quickly cleared of any involvement in the attacks.
In December 2006, Justice Dennis O’Connor made public the policy recommendations flowing from the Arar Commission. He called for new review mechanisms for security and intelligence operations in Canada (including the work of CBSA). Nearly two years later, there has been no substantive response to the recommendations.
For more information, see Canadian involvement in Benamar Benatta’s ordeal cries out for review, 18 April 2007, http://www.ccrweb.ca/eng/media/pressreleases/benattapresskit.pdf