11 June 2002
The Canadian Council for Refugees underlines that the immigration regulations are published at a time when Canada is closing its doors on refugees. The government recently announced that it is suspending the appeal for refugees. "Refugees were promised the right to an appeal," said Kemi Jacobs, President. "Now, at a time when borders are increasingly being closed to refugees, refugees are to be denied a right as basic as a review of a life-and-death decision, even though the law entitles them to an appeal." As a result, once the new law comes into effect, refugees' fate will lie in the hands of a single decision-maker.
The consultation period on the regulations offered the government an opportunity to correct the imbalance, but few changes of substance have been made, as far as refugees and family class immigrants are concerned.
* Barriers to permanent residence for refugees recognized by the Immigration and Refugee Board have not been substantially addressed. "Refugees routinely wait from one to three years to get a decision on their refugee claim. It is both inefficient and unfair to make them wait again for permanent residence," said Ms Jacobs. "Even one extra day in limbo is too much."
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration recommended that refugees be granted permanent residence within 60 days of their application. This recommendation was rejected, meaning that refugees will continue to face long delays during which they are in a kind of legal limbo.
* Parents on social assistance will be barred from sponsoring their children, penalizing children for the economic situation of their parents.
The final version of the regulations does contain some positive elements, notably the following:
* Length of sponsorship for children under 22 years is reduced to 10 years or age 25, whichever is the shorter. This replaces the earlier proposal to increase sponsorships of children to 10 years or age 22, whichever was longer. This would have meant, for example, that a baby sponsored at age 6 months would still be under a sponsorship 20 years later. The government's amendment is welcome.
* A new category of conjugal partners is created, in addition to common-law spouses, which require partners to have cohabited for at least a year. Since partners who are separated by immigration often can't cohabit, the conjugal partners category is a positive measure helping to bring families together. The category is particularly important for same-sex partners, since opposite-sex partners always have the option of marrying, something same-sex partners can't do.
Despite the few positive changes noted above, the spectre of a "safe third country" agreement - called by the CCR a "none is too many" agreement - still looms. This agreement that the government is negotiating with the United States that will largely close the door on refugees seeking our protection at the US-Canada border, adding to the new obstacles set in the way of refugees.
For more information, please contact:
Nick Summers, Vice-President 709-753-7860 (ext. 333)
Janet Dench, Executive Director 514-277-7223