14 October 2005
Montreal. The Canadian Council for Refugees and Amnesty International call on the Canadian government to respect the rights of refugees and the will of Parliament, by implementing the refugee appeal. Ten months to the day since a Parliamentary committee called on the Minister to act, the government’s lack of response outrages all those concerned for refugee rights.
“For the past three and a half years, by not implementing the appeal the government has disregarded the clear and unequivocal will of Parliament, as expressed in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act duly passed through the democratic process,” said Nick Summers, President of the Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR). “Adding insult to injury, the government has attempted to string us along with a series of broken promises and misrepresentations.”
The story of broken promises and misrepresentations includes the following:
· November 2001: Royal assent is given to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, containing an appeal for refugees.
o April 2002: Minister Coderre announces that implementation of the refugee appeal is delayed.
· May 2002: Minister Coderre announces to the CCR that the appeal will be implemented within a year. (He confirms the commitment in the House of Commons, 6 June 2002)
o Over three years later, the appeal has not been implemented.
· April 2002: The delay in implementation of the appeal is explained by reference to “an unprecedented increase in refugee claims”. (CIC news release, 29 April 2002)
o January 2003: The figures for 2002 show a dramatic decrease in the number of claims.
· February 2003: The delay in implementation is explained by reference to the IRB’s “inventory” [i.e. claims waiting to be heard] which remains “very high” (50,000). (Letter from Hon. Denis Coderre to CCR, 11 February 2003)
o June 2005: The IRB “inventory” is 22,000, the lowest it has been in the last decade.
· December 2002: Minister Coderre says that he is “committed to developing viable options for an effective appeal process in relation to refugee claims. My officials are currently identifying and evaluating possible procedures in this regard.” (Letter to CCR, 5 Dec. 2002). All subsequent Ministers make similar references to studying alternatives.
o No proposals have ever been tabled.
· December 2004: The Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration unanimously passes a resolution calling for the Minister to “implement the Refugee Appeal Division or advise the Committee as to an alternative proposal without delay.”
o Ten months later, no response has been received from the Minister.
“The absence of an appeal on the merits has been recognized as a fundamental flaw in the Canadian refugee determination system by both the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees,” said Gloria Nafziger, Refugee Coordinator, Amnesty International Canada.
See also the CCR report: The Refugee Appeal: Is no one listening?, 31 March 2005 at http://www.ccrweb.ca/refugeeappeal.pdf