CANADIAN ASSOCIATION OF REFUGEE LAWYERS RESPONDS TO NEW REFUGEE LEGISLATION, BILL C-31
The Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers (CARL) responded to the new refugee legislation, Bill C-31, and identified the following deficiencies relating to the architecture and content of the Bill:
1) The omnibus nature of the bill hides key initiatives and detracts from proper scrutiny
· This huge omnibus bill rolls together proposed anti-smuggling Bill C-4, the current refugee system, and the future refugee system, as well as additional new elements, including the use of biometrics.
· Like Bill C-10 (the omnibus crime bill), this is a complicated omnibus bill whose bulk is designed to inhibit careful scrutiny and precise analysis of several controversial issues.
2) The draconian measures of C-4 are rolled into this new bill
· C-4’s proposed mandatory, unreviewable, warrantless, year-long detention is patently unconstitutional. The Supreme Court of Canada decided this issue in the clearest of terms.
· Family separation for at least 5, and up to 8 or more years, will have disastrous consequences for refugees.
3) Hasty timelines deny refugees a fair chance to prove their claims
· Bill C-31 significantly changes our current refugee system, making it hasty and unfair. It imposes unrealistic deadlines on refugee claimants, and uses a failure to meet deadlines as a means to disqualifying refugee claimants without ever having a fair and reasonable opportunity to tell their story.
· Refugees will only have 15 days to deliver a written version of their history, and 15 days to present an appeal. This is not enough time to seek legal advice and respond to complicated legal requirements.
4) The designated “safe” country list, and the Minister’s unilateral power to list countries, dangerously politicizes the refugee system
· Refugee claimants who are put on a designated safe country list are subjected to even shorter deadlines to submit a written claim, and will not have access to an appeal.
· The Minister need not justify why he deems a country safe, nor does he have to take account of the differential risk faced by certain minorities in a country that is ‘safe’ for others. Refugees will be vulnerable to the political whims of the Minister and the government.
5) The Minister’s constant reference to “bogus” claims is an egregious misrepresentation
· The refugee definition is very technical. Many claimants come with a genuine fear of harm but may not meet the definition of a refugee. That does not make them ‘frauds’ or ‘bogus’, or abusers of the system. Their search for protection is genuine.
6) Canada’s humanitarian safety net is gravely weakened
· Bill C-31 forces people, upon arrival, to make an impossible choice between making a refugee claim or an application for humanitarian consideration. Each of these processes is complicated and making an informed decision is simply not possible for persons who have just arrived.
· Canada has long recognized that a broad humanitarian consideration processis necessary to preserve the flexibility of our protection system. Barring access to this is contrary to our humanitarian tradition.