Canadian Council for Refugees E-Chronicle Vol. 2 #6, 1 October 2007

In the wake of a media frenzy focused on migrants from Mexico at the Windsor border crossing in late September, the CCR charged the Canadian government with undermining the refugee claim system by creating a rapidly growing backlog through its continuing failure to appoint sufficient decision-makers. 

The Refugee Protection Division of the Immigration and Refugee Board should have 127 members, but because of government failure to appoint or re-appoint, it is short 46 members (37% of the complement).  The results are a dramatically growing backlog and rapidly increasing processing times.  This causes hardship for refugees and act as an incentive for people in the U.S. to make a claim in Canada, even if they expect that their claim will eventually be refused.

Meanwhile, recent complaints of Canada being flooded with refugee claimants from the U.S. are seriously exaggerated.  Canada has in the past seen much larger numbers arriving from the U.S., including during the period when the U.S. Special Registration program, targeting males from mostly Muslim countries, forced many to flee beginning in late 2002.  Based on arrivals January-August 2007, Canada is likely to receive about 24,000 refugee claimants this year an increase of less than a 5% compared with 2006, and far fewer than some previous years.  And the numbers arriving in Canada are trivial compared to the numbers of, for example, Iraqi refugees who have been forced to flee to neighbouring countries in that region.

A copy of the CCR’s press release is available at:

A sample of the media coverage on the recent refugee claims at the Windsor border crossing and false information being spread in Southern Florida:

Illegal Immigrants chase false hope to Canada, The New York Times, 21 September 2007:

Undocumented migrants vulnerable to scams, The Miami Herald, 22 September 2007:

From 29 November 1 to December 2007 refugee and immigrant rights advocates from across Canada will be gathering in Ottawa for the Canadian Council for Refugees 2007 Fall Consultation on the theme of ‘Breaking the Barriers to Refugee and Immigrant Rights’.  Information about the consultation and online registration forms are available at: 

Printed copies of the Consultation program and registration forms have been sent to CCR members in the recent Member mailing.  Don’t forget to register before 9 November to take advantage of the reduced fees!

Prior to the Consultation, on Wednesday 28 November in Ottawa, the CCR is organizing a National Lobby Day on Parliament Hill in the afternoon.  CCR members will be meeting with Members of Parliament to raise issues relating to family reunification, temporary workers, and the protection of trafficked persons in Canada.  Interested in receiving more information about the National Lobby Day?  Please check the appropriate box on your CCR Fall Consultation registration form or email Colleen French at

Please help us to promote this Consultation by directing people who might be interested in attending to the consultation webpage at:

Downloadable, printable posters and web-based promotional materials are also available there.  Please share these resources with others in your organization and in your community!

Senators who are supportive of Bill C-280 on the implementation of the Refugee Appeal Division tell us that it is important for Senators to hear from Canadians who want the bill passed.  Face-to-face meetings, telephone calls, letters and faxes make a difference.  Please continue to meet with and contact Senators from your region!

We invite you to gather a group of advocates together in your area to meet Senators before the opening of Parliament in mid-October 2007.  If this is not possible, please call Senators’ offices and follow up with letters asking them to support Bill C-280 and its rapid passage through the Senate.  A list of all senators by province, including their contact details, can be found at:  Please copy Senator Goldstein, the sponsor of the bill in the Senate (, fax: (613) 943-3631) on any letters or faxes you send to Senators, as well as keeping the CCR (Colleen French at up to date on actions you take and any responses from Senators on Bill C-280. 

With your help we can promote the speedy passage of the bill through the Senate and the establishment of the Refugee Appeal Division after more than five years of delay.  Fast action is important to the success of this bill and the implementation of the Refugee Appeal Division!

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

For more information about the Refugee Appeal Division, please see:
- A backgrounder on the Refugee Appeal Division:
- The CCR’s Refugee Appeal Division webpage:

On 27 September, the CCR expressed public outrage that the Canadian government is charging a U.S. humanitarian worker with people-smuggling for bringing 12 Haitians to the Canadian border to make refugee claims at the port of entry.

Janet Hinshaw-Thomas, a representative of PRIME - Ecumenical Commitment to Refugees, was arrested on 27 September at the Lacolle border point, detained overnight in the immigration detention centre in Laval and brought to court in St Jean sur Richelieu, where she was charged under section 117 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.  This states that “No person shall knowingly organize, induce, aid or abet the coming into Canada of one or more persons who are not in possession of a visa, passport or other document required by this Act.”

The Canadian Council for Refugees notes that, despite its repeated urgings, the Canadian government has done little to crack down on smugglers who exploit refugee claimants by charging them exorbitant sums of money. It is therefore all the more shocking that the government has decided to prosecute a humanitarian worker who was acting out of compassion for refugees.

The CCR encourages people and organizations to respond to the shocking decision by the government to press charges against an NGO representative who was assisting refugee claimants in getting to the Canadian border to make a claim.  Please consider taking the following actions:

- circulating the release widely (including to any media contacts).
- taking action as directed in the Amnesty International urgent action:
- encouraging other organizations to put out media releases
- contacting local Members of Parliament to protest the charges laid.

The media release from the CCR is available at:

e) Comments: Private sponsorship of refugees program evaluation

Many of those involved in helping refugees find a new home in Canada through the private sponsorship program were deeply disappointed with the evaluation of the program commissioned by Citizenship and Immigration Canada and made public in May 2007.  Concerned that this evaluation gives a misleading and damaging view of the important work done by private sponsors, the CCR and elected Sponsorship Agreement Holder representatives have developed joint comments.

These comments raise serious questions about the evaluation’s methodology, factual errors, absence of adequate data and data analysis. Furthermore, the evaluation fails to address a number of significant questions, such as the contribution of the program in encouraging Canadians to welcome refugees and the program’s success in increasing Canada’s overall response to refugees in need of protection and a permanent home. Overall, the evaluation gives an inaccurate, incomplete and misleading picture of the Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program.

A copy of the comments is available at:

The CIC evaluation of the private sponsorship program is available at:

The Federal Court has recently rendered a disappointing decision in a case involving a refugee family who sued the government because of the long delays in processing their application for permanent residence.  The delays were linked to security inadmissibility: 12 ½ years after the application for permanent residence, a decision is still pending.  The CCR has a longstanding concern with the delays in processing of security-related cases (see our release at

The decision at the Federal Court represents the first time a case has gone to trial to hold the government liable for immigration processing delays.  The court rejected the claims for damages and found that the government does not owe a duty of care to applicants whose applications for landing are delayed while security concerns are investigated.  However the court did condemn the slow processing, saying “the delay was inordinate and unreasonable.  In a word, it was inexcusable.  I have no difficulty in concluding that it would offend the community’s sense of decency and fairness.”

The decision, Haj Khalil v. Canada (2007 FC 923), can be found at  In its 149 pages it gives quite a lot of information about how security-related cases are processed.

Are you and your organization active within the CCR?  Are you interested in taking your participation to a deeper level?  You might consider nominating yourself or a member of your organization to the CCR Executive Committee, as a Co-Chair of a CCR Working Group or as a member of a Core Group.  The CCR is calling for nominations for eight new members of its Executive Committee, including the positions of President, Vice-President, and six counsellors/board members (members-at-large of the Executive).  For the first time, Core Group positions will also be filled at the Annual General Meeting, as decided by membership at the May General Meeting.  The Inland Protection and the Overseas Protection and Sponsorship Working Groups will each be electing one Chair.  Terms for all of these positions are for two years.

The deadline for nominations to the Executive is 27 October 2007.  Elections for executive positions and membership of the core groups will take place at the CCR’s Annual General Meeting on Saturday 1 December 2007 in Ottawa.  Working Group chairs will be elected during the Working Group meetings on the afternoon of Friday 30 November.

Information on nomination criteria and the responsibilities and expectations of elected Executive Committee members, Working Group co-chairs and Core Group members has been sent to all CCR member organizations in the most recent mailing.  If you would like to receive an electronic copy of these criteria, please send an email to with ‘Nominations’ in the subject heading.

h) New from the CCR – Notice to persons in the US who wish to claim refugee status at the Canadian border

To counter false information that is being circulated in the United States, the Canadian Council for Refugees with partner organizations in the United States and Canada has issued an alert clarifying that there is no “Special Program” for Haitians, Mexicans or persons of any other nationality, and warning against unscrupulous organizations or individuals selling false information.

This alert is available in English, French and Spanish on the CCR website.  Please distribute this information as widely as possible!

For a copy of the English-language alert:
For a copy of the French-language alert:
For a copy of the Spanish-language alert:

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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