On November 29th, the Federal Court ruled that the designation of the US as a safe third country violates refugee rights.
The Safe Third Country Agreement, implemented December 2004, effectively closed the border to the majority of refugee claimants who came through the United States on their way to making refugee claims in Canada. Sent away by Canada, these individuals were instead forced to turn to the US asylum system, even though it does not meet international standards.
The legal challenge was launched by the Canadian Council for Refugees, Amnesty International and the Canadian Council of Churches, along with a Colombian refugee claimant.
The Court found that it was unreasonable to conclude that the USA complies with the United Nations Convention against Torture and the UN Refugee Convention and points to serious shortcomings in the US asylum system including:
- deportations of individuals from the United States to countries where they are at risk of torture
- concerns that women who are fearful of gender-based violations such as domestic violence are often denied protection
- broad categories that exclude individuals from refugee status
- a harsh one-year time bar that makes it impossible for many individuals to make refugee claims if they have already been in the United States for more than one year.
The three organizations that launched the challenge now call on the government to immediately suspend the operation of the safe third country agreement.
*NOTE: The Safe Third Country Agreement remains in effect, despite the recent decision of the Federal Court. For practical information for people that are affected by the Safe Third Country Agreement, see: http://www.ccrweb.ca/s3cFAQ.html
For a copy of the Federal Court decision (126 pages), see: http://decisions.fct-cf.gc.ca/en/2007/2007fc1262/2007fc1262.html
For a copy of the joint press release welcoming the court decision, see: http://www.ccrweb.ca/eng/media/pressreleases/30nov07.htm
For opinion pieces commenting on the Federal Court decision:
For additional information regarding the Safe Third Country Agreement, see: http://www.ccrweb.ca/S3C.htm
The CCR appeared before the House of Commons committee studying Bill C-3 on Tuesday, December 4th. Bill C-3 is the government’s response to the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in Charkaoui, which held that the use of secret evidence violated the right to fundamental justice. Rights groups, including the CCR, are universally condemning the bill as offering only the very smallest improvements over the current unconstitutional process. Nevertheless, it is clear that Parliament is rushing the bill through, with minimal amendments.
The CCR's submission on Bill C-3 is available at:
http://www.ccrweb.ca/documents/C-3submission.pdf and for a summary of this document:
The CCR and Amnesty International formally launched the ‘Proud to Aid and Abet Refugees’ campaign at the CCR Fall Consultation in Ottawa. The campaign calls for changes to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to ensure that no one acting on humanitarian grounds will again be prosecuted for assisting refugees.
The arrest in September of refugee worker Janet Hinshaw-Thomas, charged with people-smuggling, has caused shock waves through the refugee-serving community, as people realize that they too could be prosecuted for their work helping refugees. Although the charges against Ms Hinshaw-Thomas were dropped, the threat of such charges will continue to hang over the heads of those who help refugees, until the law is changed.
More resources will be added to the webpage in the coming days, but take a look at the ‘Proud to Aid and Abet Refugees’ campaign page for an overview: http://www.ccrweb.ca/documents/aidandabet.htm
Want to become involved as a regional contact for the campaign? Contact Colleen French at: email@example.com for more details.
The media release announcing the campaign launch is available at: http://www.ccrweb.ca/eng/media/pressreleases/29nov07.htm
The CCR has created a Refugee Leadership Development Program to promote strong representation of people with a refugee experience in positions of volunteer leadership within the CCR. The program is intended to encourage refugees to aspire to leadership and support them as they prepare for leadership roles. The program builds on the CCR’slongstanding commitment to promoting refugee participation within all levels of the organization.
For more information about the Refugee Leadership Development Program and how to apply, see: http://www.ccrweb.ca/documents/RLDP.htm
In recognition of the financial barriers which limit refugee participation, the CCR has the Amina Malko fund to cover part of expenses for a certain number of refugees to attend CCR meetings. We are now accepting applications to attend CCR meetings in the 2008 calendar year. The funding covers air/train fare to the meetings and accommodation (but not other costs such as food or ground transportation).
For more information about the Amina Malko Fund and how to apply, see: http://www.ccrweb.ca/documents/aminamalko.htm
The CCR welcomed more than 400 participants to its Fall Consultation in Ottawa from 29 November to 1 December on the theme “Breaking the Barriers to Refugee and Immigrant Rights”.
Among the outcomes of the consultation were:
- a call for an increased Canadian response to the crisis faced by Iraqi refugees in the Middle East
- the launch of the ‘Proud to Aid and Abet Refugees’ campaign, calling for legislative change to prevent future prosecutions of refugee workers
- meetings with Members of Parliament drawing attention to the need to make speedy family reunification a priority, the rights of temporary workers and the rights of trafficked persons in Canada
The resolutions adopted during the CCR’s Annual General Meeting will be available soon on the CCR website.
The CCR would also like to thank the outgoing members of the CCR Executive Committee for their valuable work: Amy Casipullai (Vice President), Nick Summers (Past President), Jehad Aliweiwi, Julie Bédard-Mathieu, Tigist Dafla, Gilbert Iyamuremye and Eva Osorio-Nieto (Counsellors).
We would like to congratulate Elizabeth McWeeny on her re-election as CCR President and Wanda Yamamoto as Counsellor. The CCR would also like to extend a warm welcome to Roberto Jovel (Vice President), Muuxi Adam, Jan Drews, Mary Fiakpui, Deborah Isaccs and Anne-Marie Kabongo (Counsellors). We look forward to working with you!
The Overseas Protection Working Group thanks out-going chair Paulette Johnson for her efforts and welcomes Heather Macdonald, who will co-chair the Working Group with Yosief Araya.
Thanks also to Deborah Isaacs who finishes her term as Co-Chair of the Inland Protection Working Group. Debbie Hill-Corrigan is the incoming co-chair, with Rick Goldman.
Check out these new resources from the CCR. The documents marked with (*) can be ordered from the CCR office by sending an email to Colleen French at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Annual Status Report 2007
This report gives an overview of how the Canadian federal government has addressed refugee and immigration issues from November 2006 to October 2007 from the perspective of the CCR. We recommend using this resource (with or without the references) in your public education efforts and when communicating with the media on refugee and immigrant rights in Canada.
The Annual Status Report is available at: http://www.ccrweb.ca/documents/ASR2007en.pdf
- *CCR Membership Directory 2007-2008 (price: $12 + shipping costs)
What to know who’s who in the CCR? Looking for innovative programs across Canada? Need to contact a colleague in another part of the country? The CCR Membership Directory holds the answers to these questions and many more.
Copies of the newly revised Membership Directory are now available on order from the CCR office. Send an email to Guadalupe Macias at email@example.com if interested.
- *Materials to promote the protection of trafficked persons in Canada
A pamphlet about the CCR’s position, the CCR’s proposal for legislative amendment to protect trafficked persons in Canada and a series of Frequently Asked Questions are now available. We encourage CCR members to use these resources when meeting with Members of Parliament, talking to community allies and for public education.
Resources are available for downloading and printing, or on order from the CCR office:
- Informational pamphlet:
- Proposal for Legislative Amendment: http://www.ccrweb.ca/documents/traffickingproposal07.pdf
- Frequently Asked Questions to accompany the Proposal for Legislative Amendment
- *Materials to promote speedy family reunification in Canada
Updated and concise materials to promote this campaign in your community are now available. We encourage you to use these resources to promote the campaign locally and to seek endorsements for the Family Reunification Manifesto.
For the backgrounder on some of the key issues, see: http://www.ccrweb.ca/documents/Reunification2007EN.pdf
For a copy of the Family Reunification Manifesto, see: http://www.ccrweb.ca/Manifesto.pdf
- ‘Proud to Aid and Abet Refugees’ toolkit for regional campaign promoters
In conjunction with the newly launched ‘Proud to Aid and Abet Refugees’ campaign, the CCR is calling on organizations to join the campaign call for legislative change to prevent further prosecutions of refugee workers. Register your organization as a supporter and use the CCR’s resources to promote the campaign in your local area. See the page : http://www.ccrweb.ca/documents/aidandabet.htm. More resources will be added to the webpage in the coming days.
- Iraqi Refugee Crisis: Call for increased Canadian response
As an action item from the Fall Consultation, the CCR has developed an updated call to the Canadian government to take action to protect displaced Iraqis in the Middle East. The CCR will present to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration on this issue today.
The updated CCR position and backgrounder are available at: http://www.ccrweb.ca/documents/iraqicall.pdf
Gilbert Iyamuremye, Director of the Diocese of London – Office of Refugees in Windsor, has just finished four years on the Executive Committee of the Canadian Council for Refugees. Because of his involvement in the private sponsorship of refugees in Windsor, his involvement in the CCR is centred in the Overseas Protection and Sponsorship Working Group.
“After I started working for the Diocese, it wasn’t long before I learned about the CCR and found that it was the best place to learn about, to address concerns, and to find solutions affecting refugees and immigrants,” he explains.
Gilbert’s involvement in the CCR has extended beyond Canada. As a representative of the CCR at the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR)’s Executive Committee meetings on the Canadian delegation this year, he brought the perspective of community groups and non-governmental organizations to the attention of the Canadian government delegation: “It’s critical for non-governmental organizations to engage in direct dialogue with UNHCR officials in Geneva. UNHCR recognizes that discussions are incomplete if only it and States are involved. Non-governmental organizations must have space as well.”
As for dialogue within the CCR, Gilbert emphasizes the importance of refugee participation in the CCR and individual expertise. “It's important that refugees and immigrants are made to feel the value of their contributions in the CCR. Often new participants with refugee experience feel that they have little to contribute when, in fact, their personal experience, perspectives and ideas are essential.”