Canadian Council for Refugees E-Chronicle Vol. 2 #10, 4 February 2008

On 31 January, the Federal Court of Appeal granted the government’s application for a stay of the Federal Court ruling striking down the Safe Third Country Agreement, pending an appeal.  This means that the safe third country rules, closing the land border to most refugees, remain in effect, even though they have been found to violate the Charter and international human rights obligations.  The decision by the Federal Court of Appeal is deeply disturbing: the court in effect ruled that the government’s convenience carries more weight than the risk to the lives of refugees.

For the media release from the CCR and Amnesty International reacting to the decision, see:

For an article on the stay ruling, see “Court puts hold on refugee pact ruling”, 31 January 2008,

For more information about Safe Third Country, see

Another humanitarian refugee worker has been threatened by the Canadian government with prosecution for assisting refugees.  The threats follow charges for people-smuggling laid (and subsequently dropped) last fall against Janet Hinshaw-Thomas, a US-based refugee worker.

On 14 December 2007, Margaret de Rivera, a Quaker volunteer from Maine, accompanied two Haitians to the border point at St Stephen, NB, where they made a refugee claim.  A Canadian immigration official told Ms de Rivera that she would be arrested and prosecuted under s. 117 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which criminalizes people-smuggling, if she came back again with refugee claimants.  The two Haitians were allowed to make their refugee claim, as they are entitled to under the law.  Ms de Rivera and the informal refugee support group to which she belongs act on humanitarian grounds and do not charge any money to the refugees they help, even to defray costs.

The Canadian Council for Refugees has launched the ‘Proud to aid and abet refugees’ campaign, designed to ensure that no one will again face criminal prosecution for helping refugees, on a humanitarian basis.

The CCR invites organizations to register with this campaign and to take action by writing letters.  Individuals are encouraged to have organizations they are connected with register with the campaign and to collect petition signatures.  Help us ensure that the law is changed so that no one else acting on humanitarian motives will be charged for aiding and abetting refugees!

For more information on the ‘Proud to aid and abet refugees’ campaign and how you can get involved, check out the campaign webpage at:

To read the CCR media release on the threats made to Margaret de Rivera, see:

When debate was resumed in the House of Commons, members of the New Democratic Party (NDP) filed a series of amendments to slow passage of Bill C-3, a bill that provides for the continued use of secret evidence in both security certificates and other immigration proceedings (IRPA s. 86).  House of Commons debate on Bill C-3 will continue on Monday, February 4th.

Please continue to urge MPs to vote against this bill that involves the violation of non-citizens' right to fundamental justice. Urge them to make a public statement of opposition to the use of secret evidence and to eliminate the security certificate process.

Assuming that debate on Bill C-3 proceeds to the Senate, please also contact Senators from your region regarding concerns over the bill.  Contact information for all Senators is available at:

The CCR’s position on C-3 is available at:  There is also a summary at

The CCR calls for the elimination of the security certificate process and opposes the use of secret evidence.

Do you want to be part of efforts to promote rights for refugees?  Want to participate in in-depth discussions on pressing issues affecting refugees and immigrants in Canada?  Looking for an opportunity to share information and strategies with others from across Canada?

Come to the CCR Winter Working Group meetings in Toronto!

The CCR Winter Working Group meetings will be held in Toronto on 22 and 23 February 2008.  All CCR members are encouraged to attend the Working Group meetings, which are also open to others interested.  The meetings are closed to media and government employees.

The meeting schedule is:

- FRIDAY 22 FEBRUARY: 9:30am - 5pm
Inland Protection Working Group meeting and
Immigration and Settlement Working Group meeting

- SATURDAY 23 FEBRUARY: 9:30am - 5pm
Overseas Protection and Sponsorship Working Group meeting

Location:  Our Lady of Lourdes Church, 520 Sherbourne Street, Toronto (2 blocks from Sherbourne metro station).

For more information about the CCR Working Group meetings, including a promotional flyer, see:

e) CCR presents to Parliamentary Standing Committee on Bill C-17 and protection for trafficked persons

The CCR appeared before the Parliamentary Committee on Citizenship and Immigration on 30 January, to testify on Bill C-17.  The CCR opposed the bill, which would give visa officers increased powers to refuse people applying for a work permit in Canada, a misguided response to the problem of exploitation of workers in Canada.  Parliament should instead adopt legislative changes to ensure the protection of trafficked persons, in line with the Proposal for Legislative Amendment to Protect the Rights of Trafficked Persons in Canada presented by the CCR. 

For a media release on an earlier version of Bill C-17 (first tabled as Bill C-57) see

For the CCR’s proposal, as well as further CCR information on trafficking, go to

The CCR has issued comments regarding a new Citizenship and Immigration Canada initiative, the Canadian Experience Class (CEC).  The CEC will offer the possibility of permanent residence to some people in Canada with temporary status, based on “skilled” work experience. This initiative will however exclude temporary workers with “lower skilled” experience in Canada and people who came to Canada as refugee claimants.

The CCR is concerned that the CEC discriminates against many people who have valuable experience and are already contributing to Canadian society, allowing them only temporary status and thus leaving them more vulnerable to abuse. The CCR believes that those who are able and willing to fill labour shortages should qualify as immigrants, regardless of skill level, as assessed by formal educational levels.

The CCR’s comments on the proposed Canadian Experience Class are available on the CCR website at:

April 4, 1985 was a milestone for refugee rights in Canada.  On that day, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled, in the Singh decision, that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects the right of refugee claimants in Canada to life, liberty and security of the person, and that claimants are therefore entitled to an oral hearing, in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice and international law. 

This April 4th reach out to your community about refugee rights.  The anniversary of the Singh decision is an ideal opportunity to alert the Canadian public, media and politicians to the advances made in the protection of refugee rights as a result of the ruling, as well as to threats to those rights. 

During the month of February, we will be posting updated resources on our dedicated Refugee Rights Day webpage:  We encourage you to use these resources in preparation for and during activities marking Refugee Rights Day on April 4th.

Are you planning an activity on or around April 4th?  Let us know and we can pass the word on through the CCR website.  Send an email to Colleen French at with the details. 

Congratulations to Leo Nupolu Johnson, Alfredo Mamingi Lombisi and Zulekha Suni who have been selected as the recipients of the CCR’s Amina Malko Fund for 2008.  As participants in this program, Leo, Alfredo and Zulekha will have their travel expenses covered to attend three CCR meetings in 2008.

The Amina Malko Fund is part of the CCR’s ongoing efforts to promote the full participation of refugees in its activities by offering funding to assist two or three refugees in attending three CCR meetings.   The fund was created by the CCR in recognition of the financial barriers which limit refugee participation.

This fund is named after Amina Malko, a former CCR Executive Committee member, a long time refugee rights activist in Toronto with the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI) and at one time a refugee herself. She passed away in March 2001 in the prime of her life.

Interested in learning more about the Amina Malko Refugee Participation Fund?  More information is available at:


- Proud to Aid and Abet Refugees’ campaign toolkits

Register your organization as an organization that aids and abets refugees and that supports the CCR’s ‘Proud to Aid and Abet’ campaign. In doing so, you are making a commitment to promote the campaign in your local area and/or networks and to recruit additional campaign supporters.

To register, send an email to and the CCR office will send your organization campaign buttons, stickers and other promotional materials.

- New CCR email addresses
As part of our efforts to improve the CCR’s resources, we are upgrading some of our online functions.  This includes the CCR’s internet and email capabilities.  You can now reach CCR staff at the following addresses.  Note: all addresses will now use the same domain as the CCR website –

Thabet al-Qadomi, Reception –
Meissoon Azzaria, Settlement Policy Director and Conference Coordinator –
Janet Dench, Executive Director –
Colleen French, Communications and Networking Coordinator –
Guadalupe Macias, Office Manager –
General inquiries –

Thank you for updating your address books as the previous email addresses are being gradually phased out.

Norrie De Valencia first became involved with the CCR in the 1990s through the Diocese of New Westminster and her volunteer work with the private sponsorship of refugees.  At the time, she felt “It was as if I was hanging by one hand from a thin branch. Private refugee sponsors (SAHs) were not in close contact with each other.  After attending the CCR, I had found a genuine group of like-minded people.”

Violence experienced by women and children, and trafficking in particular, began to become a dominant theme in Norrie’s work and she joined the CCR’s Gender Core Group to educate and motivate others to take action and to curb this violence.

“In the 1990s we were aware of trafficking cases but had absolutely no idea how to handle them. In early CCR workshops on human trafficking we sought to create greater awareness among organizations about this sinister phenomenon. The greatest challenge we continue to face in our work with trafficked persons is to create consciousness that these people are not criminals, but human beings who have suffered the most egregious rights abuses.”

Canadian law criminalizes trafficking.  Instead of protecting the rights of people who have been trafficked, however, it promotes their detention.  With Norrie and the Trafficking subcommittee of the Gender Core Group, the CCR has developed a legislative proposal to bring a permanent and fundamental change in policy so that trafficked persons in Canada are protected. 

The CCR seeks organizational endorsements of this Proposal for Legislative Amendment to Protect the Rights of Trafficked Persons in Canada.  The Proposal and additional information about trafficking in Canada are 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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