Canadian Council for Refugees E-Chronicle Vol. 2 #3, 4 June 2007

On 30 May, Members of Parliament approved at third reading Bill C-280, An Act to Amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (coming into force of sections 110, 111 and 171), calling for the immediate implementation of the Refugee Appeal Division.  On the same day it passed through first reading in the Senate.  Second reading of the Bill at the Senate is scheduled for 5 June.

Time is of the essence.  We are asking CCR members and allies to call Senators in their region as soon as possible and encourage them to support this important bill.  You can find names and contact information of Senators by region at

For a guide on how to approach this meeting and on what to say, please follow the links below:

- For a one-page backgrounder on the Refugee Appeal Division to give to a Senator:

- For tips on how to organize a phone or in-person meeting with a Senator:

Thanks for letting us know about any response you get - send a quick message to with an update.

For more information about the Refugee Appeal Division, please see:

- A backgrounder on the Refugee Appeal Division:

- The CCR’s Refugee Appeal Division webpage:

For additional media coverage on the implementation of the Refugee Appeal Division, see: Stalled Refugee Appeal Division Gets a Nudge, The Embassy

Concerned that the government is not living up to its obligation under the law to review the status of the US as a safe third country, the CCR has made a further submission on this matter to Cabinet, available at  This submission adds to the extensive documentation supplied by the CCR in November 2006, showing that the US is not now, if it ever was, a safe third country.

The CCR is urging organizations to write to Cabinet to remind Ministers of their obligation to review whether the US meets the definition of a safe third country.  Please encourage your organization to send a letter, with a copy to the CCR and to your MP.  For more information about what to say, contact Colleen French at

General information about Safe third, including the CCR’s two submissions, can be found at

The Canadian Council for Refugees publicly expressed disappointment with Bill C-57, tabled in Parliament on 16 May by the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration.  The bill does nothing to protect the rights of trafficked persons already here in Canada and takes a condescending, moralistic approach towards women.  The CCR contests the idea that visa officers should be given the power to decide which women should be kept out of Canada for their own good.

The CCR is urging the government to adopt instead the CCR’s proposal to protect trafficked persons (available online at  Further information about trafficking from the CCR can be found at

Allan Thompson, writing in the Toronto Star, raised similar concerns to the CCR and recommended our proposal be considered.  See:

The CCR’s press release of 22 May is available at:

The Minister’s announcement of Bill C-57 is available at:

The Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration published its report on refugee issues in late May.  It deals with the following topics:

- Private sponsorship of refugees
- Refugee Appeal Division
- People who seek sanctuary in churches
- People from moratoria countries
- IRB appointment process and backlog
- Canada-US Safe Third Country Agreement
- Removals and Pre-Removal Risk Assessment
- Settlement issues affecting refugees
- Stateless refugees in the Philippines
- Fees charged to refugees

The report reflects many of the concerns of the CCR and our members.  

The Parliamentary Standing Committee report Safeguarding Asylum – Sustaining Canada’s commitment to refugees is available here.

e) Consultation Summary: ‘Successful Integration of Refugees and Immigrants’, CCR Spring Consultation, 24-26 May 2007, Edmonton

The CCR held a successful spring consultation in Edmonton, attended by over 300 participants.  Highlights included a powerful theatrical performance highlighting the problem of trafficking and a visit from Geneva of Vincent Cochetel, UNHCR Head of Resettlement Service.  Many thanks go to the members of the local organizing committee and the numerous CCR members who contributed to the success of the consultation.

For English-language media coverage of some of the issues raised during the CCR Spring Consultation, see:

25 May 2007 - Temporary workers not treated fairly: advocate (CBC News)

25 May 2007 - Refugee Conference (The Link, Radio Canada International) - in Part II. People from across Canada who work with refugees and immigrants are meeting this week in the city of Edmonton. The Canadian Council for Refugees is holding a national consultation in Alberta's capital city. The Link’s Frank Rackow attended the opening day of the conference.

Pour la couverture médiatique en français, voir :

24 mai 2007 - Consultation sur l'intégration des réfugiés et immigrants (Radio-Canada)

24 mai 2007 - En direct de la Consultation du printemps du Conseil canadien pour les réfugiés (Ici Radio Refugee, Radio Centre-Ville de Montréal)

25 mai 2007 - Intégration des enfants de réfugiés dans les écoles - avec: Victor Moke Ngala, participants (Café Show, Radio-Canada)

The Federal Court of Appeal has rendered its decision in Thamotharem, a case in which the CCR was an intervener.  The case deals with Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) guideline 7 which imposes as standard practice "reverse order questioning" (ROQ), i.e. that the claimant is questioned first by the Refugee Protection Officer (RPO) or the Board member and only afterwards by their own counsel.  In our intervention, the CCR argued that imposing reverse order questioning is unfair to claimants, who are often vulnerable. 

The Court decided that:

a) it is not inherently unfair to deny claimants the right to be questioned by their own counsel first.
b) the guideline does not unlawfully fetter the member’s discretion (because they can vary the order of questioning in “exceptional circumstances”)
c) although the change in procedure could have been introduced through an amendment to the Rules, it was also reasonable for the IRB chairperson to make the change through guidelines (one of the three judges thought that the change really should have been in the Rules).

The Court does acknowledge that reverse order questioning would be unfair in some cases and that therefore the IRB would be obliged in such cases to change the order of questioning.

The Thamotharem decision, as well as the decisions consolidated under Benitez, also dealing with ROQ, can be found at:

As part of the CCR Youth Network Strategy Session and the CCR Consultation in Edmonton, a team of multi-talented refugee rights and youth advocates put together a short video clip voicing the challenges that many refugee youth face in Canada.

This video is now available on YouTube at:  We encourage you to share it with others, link it to your website and other online resources and use it in your own work to promote refugee rights.  We’d love to hear your comments about the video and how you use it as well: send your thoughts to Colleen French at

Many thanks to Taro Hashimoto of Catholic Social Services - Edmonton and Ian Keteku (Emcee E) of the Edmonton Immigrant Services Association who put this project together and to students in the ESL program at St Joseph High School in Edmonton for having the courage to speak out.

Together with Amnesty International Canada, International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, Canadian Arab Federation, CAIR-CAN, and la Ligue des droits et libertés, the Canadian Council for Refugees sent a letter to Stockwell Day, Minister of Public Safety, urging him to review Benamar Benatta’s case.  On 12 September 2001 the Canadian government illegally transferred Mr Benatta to the US, where he spent nearly five years in detention, before being returned to Canada.

The open letter also urges the Canadian government to implement the recommendations of the Arar Commission, particularly the integrated review of security agencies.  If such a monitoring mechanism were already in place, there would be a clear process by which Mr. Benatta and all Canadians could learn what went wrong in his case.

The open letter is available at

Want to find out the latest developments in immigrant and refugee rights advocacy in Canada? Want to know more about promoting the rights of immigrants and refugees in your community? Then you will be interested in the Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR) Chronicle - a monthly digest keeping you in the loop on refugee and immigrant rights advocacy in Canada.

To receive the CCR Chronicle electronically, go to the Chronicle page.

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