Canadian Council for Refugees E-Chronicle Vol. 3 #1, 1 April 2008

The CCR expressed its dismay at proposed amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act included in the budget bill, C-50, particularly the elimination of the obligation to study humanitarian applications outside Canada.

“These amendments take away the right to have an application for humanitarian consideration examined, even though this is the only option under the immigration law for many people, including some children seeking to be reunited with their parents,” said Elizabeth McWeeny, CCR President.  “Again and again when we point out gaps in the immigration law, Citizenship and Immigration Canada tells us that humanitarian and compassionate applications are the recourse.  What kind of recourse will it be, if visa officers can simply discard the application without even examining it?”

The CCR is also concerned that the proposed amendments eliminate the right to permanent residence for applicants who meet the requirements of the Act, and provide for applications in the economic class to be simply discarded, according to rules that are unknown and will not be subject to parliamentary approval.

For the press release from the CCR in response to the government’s proposed changes, see:

On 4 March, Bill C-280 passed second reading in the Senate and was referred to the Committee on Human Rights. The price for the Conservatives agreeing to it going to committee was a willingness to consider an amendment to the Bill to say that the RAD comes into effect 180 days after receiving Royal Assent. This proposed amendment will therefore no doubt be considered by the Committee.

As part of its study of Bill C-280, the Committee has invited witnesses to appear in the coming weeks.

It is very important that the members of the Committee (and the leaders of the two parties) hear a strong message urging them to pass the bill as quickly as possible. The bill is nearly through – with an extra push we can make the Refugee Appeal Division a reality! 

Take Action!  Please call, write and visit the members of the Senate Committee on Human Rights in the next two to three weeks.

Contact details for these Senators, talking points and model letters are available on the Refugee Appeal Division webpage:

The Canadian Council for Refugees and the Canadian Arab Federation expressed their disappointment over Canada’s inadequate response to Iraqi refugees, as announced by the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration on 19 March 2008.

“While we welcome the proposed increase in the number of Iraqi refugees resettled to Canada, we are shocked that this increase will be at the expense of refugees from other regions in the world,” said Elizabeth McWeeny, CCR President.  “The situation for Iraqi refugees is indeed desperate, as for so many others. The government has not made any new commitment – simply shifted the numbers around.  This is hardly something to celebrate.”

The Canadian Council for Refugees issued a call last year for an increased Canadian response to the Iraqi refugee crisis.  As part of this call, the CCR urges the government to:

  • Increase overall resettlement targets so that there can be a significant increase in numbers of Iraqi refugees resettled to Canada, without reducing the number of refugees resettled from other regions.
  • Expedite the processing of Iraqi refugees being resettled to Canada, including the security checks.
  • Educate the Canadian public about the needs of Iraqi refugees and promote the involvement of Canadians in the private sponsorship of Iraqi refugees.
  • Allocate additional resources to the Damascus mission.

For the press release from the CCR and the Canadian Arab Federation, see:

For the CCR’s call for increased Canadian response to the Iraqi refugee crisis, see

From 22-24 May 2008, people from across Canada will be gathering in Winnipeg to discuss refugee and immigrant issues at the Canadian Council for Refugees 2008 Spring Consultation on the theme: Our Past, Our Future: Our Children

Several consultation sessions will highlight the “best interests of the child”.  Since 2002, Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act requires decision-makers to taken into account the best interests of the child.  But is this happening? What improvements need to be made?

The consultation is an excellent opportunity for all interested to exchange ideas on barriers faced by refugees and other newcomers before, at and after their arrival in Canada.  Register before 2 May to take advantage of the reduced registration rates.  Special considerations are also available for refugee and youth participants. Please help us to promote this Consultation by passing this invitation to people who might be interested in attending.

The Consultation program, registration forms, and Guide to the Consultation for first-time participants are now available at:

e) Take Action this Refugee Rights Day, 4 April 2008

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 about refugee rights and take action in your community!

For more information about Refugee Rights Day actions, materials and events taking place across Canada (including Charlottetown, Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg and Edmonton), check out our dedicated Refugee Rights Day webpage:

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. 

- The Cost of Separation: DVD on the effects of separation on refugee families

The film 'The Cost of Separation' is now available on DVD and for viewing by public audiences in conjunction with the CCR's campaign for speedy family reunification.

'The Cost of Separation' was shown to Members of Parliament as part of the National Lobby Day in November 2007.  This 7-minute film highlights the real impacts of prolonged family separation on three parents who are recognized as refugees in Canada – it is a fantastic tool for reaching out to public audiences and to Members of Parliament on the need for speedy family reunification.

We invite you to use it to:

  • share with others in your community as part of Refugee Rights Day and other events
  • present during meetings
  • add to tools that you share with your allies, clients and members of the public

You can order copies of the film on DVD from the CCR office for $5 (includes shipping).  Contact Colleen French at or (514) 277-7223, ext. 1 and include your mailing address and payment details.  Payment by cheque, Mastercard or Visa is accepted.

As the CCR celebrates its 30th anniversary, we are pleased to profile one of the CCR’s earliest allies:

Alice Colak (centre), pictured with colleagues Ana Maria Fantino (left) and Mary Fiakpui (right)

Alice Colak is Director of Immigration and Settlement Services with Catholic Social Services in Edmonton where she oversees services and programs.  Having previously been a front-line worker with refugees and immigrants, Alice first became involved in the Canadian Council for Refugees to gain knowledge about refugee issues when it was still known as the Standing Conference of Canadian Organizations Concerned for Refugees. ‘I became involved to have a better understanding on the ‘big picture’ – both in Canada and internationally – and to be part of a collective educational and advocacy voice.’  Alice went on to serve on the CCR Executive, first as an elected Member from Western Canada and later as Vice President.

The CCR has changed considerably as an organization since she first became involved. ‘From a small group of committed and passionate volunteer leaders, the CCR has become a more broad-based grassroots organization with diverse membership in every region of the country.’  And the CCR’s focus has also expanded.  It now includes immigrant and settlement integration issues alongside issues affecting refugees and refugee claimants and works to change legislation, policies, practices and standards and to reach out to members of the public.  ‘Including direct voices of refugees, emerging refugee communities, and encouraging the participation of refugees and youth have also been great advancements.’

‘The CCR’s influence as an effective and influential social policy advocate has increased considerably over the past 30 years.  It will be a challenge to maintain advocacy efforts for refugees and human rights in the current climate that promotes apprehension, fear and where the protection of borders becomes the overriding concern.’  Other challenges for the CCR will be to maintain the high level of CCR member participation and to ensure fair representation of refugee voices and diverse perspectives in CCR meetings and leadership.  And how can these challenges be met?  For Alice, the answer is clear: get involved!  ‘Involvement in the CCR consultations, working groups, core groups and projects affords a fantastic opportunity to network and learn from people across the country.  For those new to the CCR: bring forward your issues and be ready to engage with people of diverse backgrounds and opinions!’

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.

Pass it on: tell others about the CCR Chronicle. A monthly dose this quick is good news!