First Designation of Irregular Arrivals

On December 5, 2012, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness (the “Minister“) made his first designation of irregular arrival under Bill C-31, the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act.

The Washington Post is reporting that the 85 people were designated, including 35 children.  Thirty of the irregular arrivals have already been arrested thus far.  The refugee claimants appear to be Romanian, and arrived in Canada between February and October.

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Refugees, Democracies, and State Protection

People are often dismissive when they hear of refugee claimants arriving with stories of persecution at the hands of militias or gangs. This especially appears to be the case when the refugee claimants originate from a democratic country. Why, they ask, do these people not simply go to the police in their respective home countries?
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Why They Immigrate: Portraits of the Congo

I often like to post pictures from the Big Picture.  The following are a sample of photos of a series taken in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In what has been described as the deadliest conflict since World War II, roughly 5.4-million people have been killed since 1998.

My goal in these posts is to remind people “why they come”.

For more photos from this series visit The Big Picture: Portraits from the Congo.

Children walk along a road above a camp for people displaced by violence near Minova in eastern Congo, February 12, 2009. (REUTERS/Finbarr O’Reilly)
Internally displaced people gather at a market in the middle of a makeshift camp near Goma in eastern Congo February 11, 2009. (REUTERS/Finbarr O’Reilly)


Fleeing the Korean War

Today is the 60th anniversary of the start of the Korean War.

The picture below is from The Big Picture. According to the photo’s caption:

In this Dec. 4, 1950 file photo, residents from Pyongyang, North Korea, and refugees from other areas crawl perilously over shattered girders of the city’s bridge, as they flee south across the Taedong River to escape the advance of Chinese Communist troops. (AP Photo/Max Desfor)


Kyrgyzstan Refugee Crisis

The Big Picture has posted a series of photos of the recent ethnic strife in Kyrgyzstan.

In the past week hundreds, if not thousands, of people have been killed in this Central Asiatic nation as ethnic Kyrgyz clash with ethnic Uzbeks. Up to 400,000 thousand Uzbeks have been driven from their homes, many fleeing to Uzbekstan.

Below are two photos from close to the Uzbekistan.  I think these photos put statements of “Canada’s refugee crisis” or “refugees are too big a burden on Canada” into perspective.

From The Big Picture, (AP Photo/Faruk Akkan,CHA)
From the Big Picture, (AP Photo/D. Dalton Bennett)

Click here for more photos from the Big Picture.


Anatomy of a Misleading Press Release

Some Twitter followers have asked me to explain my comments regarding a press release that I have described as extremely misleading.

On February 22, 2012, Citizenship and Immigration Canada released a press release titled “Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act Earning Rave Reviews“.  The press release contains quotes from politicians, lawyers, the media, and interest groups.  After reading it, one would reasonably assume that everyone quoted supported Bill C-31, the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act.

However, anyone remotely familiar with who some of the people quoted in the press release are will realize that something is amiss.

Lets start with Don Davies, the Opposition Critic for immigration.  Are we really supposed to believe that Mr. Davies supports Bill C-31?  Of course he doesn’t!  It’s basically his job not to!  A quick glance at his website and youtube confirm that he does not support the Bill, so why is he included as someone who is positively raving about Bill C-31?

Next.  Lets turn to some of the press release’s examples of the media “raving” about Bill C-31.

The press release quotes the Globe and Mail as saying:

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney’s refugee reforms, aimed at making the process more efficient and decisive, are generally good. If implemented, they will improve an unwieldy asylum program.

The legislation rightly focuses on weeding out claimants who are not genuine, and stemming the flow of asylum seekers from countries such as Mexico and Hungary that are democracies with respect for basic rights and freedoms.

Fast-tracking refugee claims from these countries, and ensuring failed claimants are promptly deported, is an excellent way to ensure Canada does not become a magnet for abuse. The bill will also implement biometric identification, such as fingerprints and photos, for people who apply for visitor’s visas. This welcome change will guard against the use of false identities.

 

However, here is what the Globe editorial, which is titled Due Process as important as efficiency in refugee reform (the editorial’s headline is of course omitted from the press release), actually says:

The press release quotes the Toronto Star as saying:

Kenney’s latest reform plan would reduce the current backlog of 42,000 refugee claims; cut the processing time for asylum seekers from “safe countries” to 45 days (from 171 days under Balanced Refugee Reform Act); and save money.

 

The Toronto Star editorial is titled “Immigration Minister Jason Kenney’s New Refugee Law Lacks Balance“.  Doesn’t quite seem like a rave review huh?

Now.  Presumably some of the people and institutions quoted in the press release actually like Bill C-31.  Some may even be “raving” about.  However, given the blatant cherry-picking, bordering on misquoting, above, why would I believe that anything in the press release actually reflects the views (as opposed to a snippet) of the people and institutions it quotes?

Bill C-31 contains many provisions which I believe are laudable, and some which I dislike.  At a minimum, it introduces changes to a refugee determination system that badly needs reforms.  However, in making its case for why its solutions are the best way forward, the Conservative Government needs to be seen by the public as having credibility when it presents facts, figures, and arguments.  Given the current scandal that the Conservative Party is facing over alleged voter suppression during the last election this should seem especially obvious.   Unfortunately, pulling stunts like this press release severely diminishes the government’s credibility.

And it makes you wonder, what can we believe?


Was Bill C-37 Worth the Political Cost?

On February 16, Jason Kenney and the Conservative government introduced Bill C-31, the Protecting Canada’s Immigration Act.  The Act makes many reforms to Canada’s refugee system, and amends previous amendments to Canada’s immigration legislation contained in the Balanced Refugee Reform Act which have not yet come into affect.  Bill C-31 was greeted by many refugee lawyers and advocates with much criticism, and was received with particular indignation from the New Democratic Party.

It is not difficult to see why the NDP was outraged by the introduction of Bill C-31.  Less than two years ago, the Conservatives and the NDP worked together to introduce the Balanced Refugee Reform Act.  Its passage was seen as a good example of compromise, and how the parties in a minority Parliament can cooperate to introduce what was generally viewed as good legislation.  I would also imagine that the NDP spent some political capital with its base by cooperating with the Conservatives and to makeCanada’s refugee system stricter.

Minister Kenney has now thrown all of that to the wind.

By abandoning the grand compromise that was the Balanced Refugee Reform Act, Mr. Kenney has taken several political risks.  First, he has abandoned any good-will that he had with the NDP.  Should the Conservatives ever find themselves in a minority government again, I doubt that they will find the NDP being very willing to work with them in the same away as they did in 2012.

Second, he has provided the NDP with the ability to criticize the upcoming reforms to Canada’s refugee system.  Because the NDP were co-drafters of the Balanced Refugee Reform Act, they could not really criticize the upcoming changes because they themselves owned the amendments.  By abandoning the Balanced Refugee Reform Act and in effect replacing it with Bill C-31, Minister Kenney has provided the NDP with legitimacy to criticize the toughening of Canada’s refugee system.

Presumably, Minister Kenney believes that the benefits of the changes in Bill C-31 outweigh the above costs.

So.  What are these changes?

(It should be noted that many of the changes below will involves changes to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations, and are not actually contained in Bill C-31.  However, as the Conservative government announced these changes concurrent with the introduction of Bill C-31, I am including them under the umbrella of the Bill C-31 changes.)

First, the time-frames for when a refugee hearing will be heard have been reduced.  Under the Balanced Refugee Reform Act, a refugee hearing would occur within 60 days for a claimant from a designated safe country of origin (“DCO”), and 90 days for a non-DCO country.  Bill C-31 will reduce in most cases reduce this period to 45 days and 60 days respectively.

Second, under the Balanced Refugee Reform Act, a non-successful refugee claimant from a DCO, or a claimant whose refugee claim was found to be manifestly unfounded, would have his appeal heard within 30 days.  A claimant from a non-DCO country would have had his appeal heard within 120 days.  Bill C-31 reduces the time-frame to 90 days for non-DCO countries.  It removes the ability to appeal completely for unsuccessful refugee claimants from DCOs, for people whose claims were found to be manifestly unfounded, and for irregular arrivals.

Bill C-31 also contains numerous changes that do not relate to time limitations.   The informational interview that was proposed in the Balanced Refugee Reform Act will now be replaced with a Basis of Claim document.  The ability to designate a country as being a designated safe country of origin has been transferred from a panel of experts to the Minister. The Immigration and Refugee Board will no longer be able to reopen previously decided claims or appeals once a final decision has been made at the Refugee Appeal Division or Federal Court.

Perhaps more significantly, there will no longer be automatic stays of removal for judicial reviews of refugee decisions for people from DCOs.  (It will be interesting to see how the Federal Court deals with the onslaught of stay of removal motions.)  Refugee claimants from DCO countries will also be prohibited from getting Work Permits during the processing of their refugee claim.

Essentially, most of Bill C-31 is geared towards decreasing the estimated total processing times of refugee claims (I am excluding from this the inclusion of all of the human smuggling provisions contained in Bill C-4).  Under the Balanced Refugee Reform Act, it was expected to take 171 days to process a refugee claim from a designated country of origin, and 291 days to process a non-DCO refugee claimant’s claim. The Conservative government expects Bill C-31 to reduce this to 45 days and 216 respectively.

The above reductions may seem significant.  However, considering the fact that under the current system the average number of days is 1,038, the further reductions gained by Bill C-31 over the reductions in the Balanced Refugee Reform Act seem less impressive.  For claimants from designated countries of origin, the reduction in processing times from the current average is 96% instead of 85%.  For non DCO countries, it is 79% instead of 72%.

So.  Assuming that the above changes in Bill C-31 withstand the inevitable Charter challenges that are no doubt coming, the Conservatives will years from now have to ask themselves whether the 9% and 7% further reductions that Bill C-31 achieved were worth the political cost.

We will likely have to wait until after the next election and see what the House of Commons looks like to know the answer.