Michael Loebach responds to a London Free Press news article: “Major immigration reforms due to pass Commons” by Daniel Proussalidis, June 10, 2012.
There are many other concerns with Bill C-31. It also bars individuals from making humanitarian and compassionate (H&C) applications for one year from a negative refugee determination, and also bars individuals from having an H&C application processed concurrently with a refugee claim. Legitimate humanitarian concerns not part of refugee decision making include best interests of minor children, separation from spouses, natural disasters, blurred distinctions between generalized violence and targeted criminality, long term disconnection to home country and others.
Bill C-31 seeks to remove foreign nationals who are refused refugee status “as soon as possible” and so many foreign nationals will be removed before they will be eligible to apply for permanent residence under the H&C category.
Making a refugee claim automatically places foreign nationals in the removals systems and should a refugee claimant withdraw their refugee claim in order to file an H&C application, they would likely be removed prior to any decision being made on the H&C. Although these applications will continue to be processed and an applicant may return should the application be approved later, not being in Canada any longer can be a negative factor.
Our own city has many recent examples of those granted residence under the humanitarian and compassionate category which has always been part of our immigration program. Unlike the useless risk assessment program, many do get accepted.
Minister Kenney’s smuggler “deterrent” violates our international obligations as it treats refugees differently. Even accepted refugees will not be eligible for permanent residence or to bring family to Canada for five years.
There is simply no significant track record in this country of so called irregular arrivals overwhelming the system or being shown to filing abusive claims. Fair speedy decision making should answer any concerns, not punishment of those who may well be victims.
The criteria for safe third country designation is very arbitrary giving much discretion to the minister. Minister Kenney is on record as saying Mexico should be on the list, despite a recent record of high level unchecked violence and police corruption, as noted by US Department of State among others; and Hungary for Romas despite numerous reports supporting their claims to skinhead violence, including as confirmed by our Federal Court.
The bill from last year offers a welcome appeal on the merits, but the new bill provides it must be done at a speed, 15 filing days, which will in practice obviate the ability to correct initial errors. The time frame for hearing the initial claim - 45 to 60 days - is also extremely fast and will lead to many errors of itself. Faster decisions than at present is certainly welcome but should not be so fast as to itself cause injustice. The new bill also denies this right of appeal to a large number of claim categories, including the designated country of origin category.
I wonder why all this could not have been equally achieved under the current system, with administrative changes and reallocation of resources, rather than the expensive overhaul which is happening. The current refugee board, which has nothing to do with removals, by and large does a good job, and have shown themselves capable in the past of handling large flows, such as with the Mexicans and Hungarians.
I wonder also why the new appeal division could not get the jurisdiction to do humanitarian reviews at the same time as the refugee appeals.
Michael Loebach, B.A.(HONS.), LL.B.
Barrister and Solicitor