For Immediate Release

9 October 2003

OTTAWA – The Interfaith Sanctuary Coalition announces that it has come to Ottawa today to draw attention to the plight of refugees denied protection by Canada and to ask Parliament to ensure that refugees are protected.

"We have come to the conclusion that the refugee determination process is unfair," says Darryl Gray, Union United Church, Montreal. "Churches who open their doors to provide sanctuary are defying this unjust policy. We believe that refugees have a right to life and liberty, that human life is sacred and must be preserved at all costs. Moral institutions cannot obey laws that are unjust and religious leaders are prepared to accept the penalty for this civil initiative that is the sanctuary movement."

The Interfaith Sanctuary Coalition was formed to support refugees who seek sanctuary, and faith communities who feel compelled to offer, through sanctuary, the protection that the Canadian government is failing to provide. In recent months, seven families or individuals have availed themselves of this sanctuary – an unprecedented phenomenon in Canada. Five remain in sanctuary today.

The Interfaith Sanctuary Coalition believes that the phenomenon of sanctuary has emerged because of flaws in Canada’s refugee determination system (notably the lack of appeal). As a result of these flaws, refugees face deportation from Canada and refugee communities are taking action to respond to this injustice. Faith communities, in turn, recognize a moral responsibility to accept refugees’ request for protection through sanctuary.

The Coalition calls on the Canadian government to protect refugees in Canada by ensuring that all claimants have access to a fair hearing before a well-qualified decision-maker, by implementing the appeal on the merits and by offering a meaningful review of the cases of refused claimants currently in Canada whose claims appear to have been wrongly rejected.

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Darryl Gray, Union United Church
514-932-8731 (cell. 514-608-7108)

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