|For Immediate Release|
|9 November 2007|
|Former Cabinet ministers, faith leaders speak out against prosecutions for aiding and abetting refugees|
Former Cabinet ministers of different parties and leaders of national faith communities have joined the growing public calls for the government to reform the law to prevent any further charges such as those recently laid against a humanitarian refugee worker.
Although the charges against Janet Hinshaw-Thomas have been dropped, the threat of similar charges exists as long as the law is not amended. Ms Hinshaw-Thomas was arrested in late September for aiding refugees to make a claim at the US/Canada border, on charges that carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
Six former immigration ministers and attorneys general, Lloyd Axworthy, Elinor Caplan, Joe Clark, Irwin Cotler, Flora MacDonald, and Allan Rock, have signed a letter expressing grave concerns over the charges.
Another letter has been signed by twelve faith leaders, representing the Anglican, Baptist, Christian Reformed, Evangelical Lutheran, Friends (Quaker), Mennonite, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, and United Church denominations, as well as a Jewish congregation.
The letters were released today by the Canadian Council for Refugees and Amnesty International Canada.
All signatories called on the government to drop the charges against Ms Hinshaw-Thomas. They also demand legislative changes to prevent future charges being laid against those who assist refugee claimants for humanitarian motives.
Ms Hinshaw-Thomas was charged under Section 117 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act which states it is a crime to "organize, induce, aid or abet" the entry into Canada of persons who do not have a visa or passport.
“As individuals who were once responsible for the application and enforcement of these provisions, we can attest to the fact that they were never designed or intended to allow for the prosecution of humanitarian aid workers,” commented the former cabinet ministers, in their letter to Attorney General Rob Nicholson, Minister of Public Safety Stockwell Day, and Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Diane Finley.
“ We are mindful of the effect these charges have on others who are helping to protect refugees,” stated the faith leaders in their letter. “Individuals and organizations serving refugees must now live with the fear of criminal charges, instead of being honoured for working to uphold Canada’s humanitarian ideals.”
The Canadian Bar Association also recently sent a strongly-worded letter on this subject, available at http://www.cba.org/CBA/submissions/pdf/07-50-eng.pdf.
A CCR release on the arrest of Janet Hinshaw-Thomas is available at: http://www.ccrweb.ca/eng/media/pressreleases/27sept07.htm
An Amnesty International release is available at http://tinyurl.com/26z6wy.