Saturday, December 18, 2010

For Refuge Rights ... in Canada

The Canadian government has proposed a draconian anti-refugee bill - bill C49.

I am proud to say that my synagogue has joined the call of many Canadian groups in opposing this bill. Below is the text of a letter that sent to the Prime Minister.
December 13, 2010

The Right Honourable Stephen Harper
Prime Minister
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2

Dear Prime Minister,

We are members of the Social Justice Advocacy Committee of Congregation Darchei Noam - a large Jewish community in Toronto, committed to social justice and the belief that all people, regardless of citizenship, are created in God's image and deserve fair treatment. We are disturbed by many of the provisions of your government's proposed new immigration bill, C-49.

In particular, we see it in large part as victimizing many refugee claimants - assuming in advance that their refugee claims are bogus. Many of the measures proposed are simply punitive and arbitrary. These include:
  • Declaration of refugee claimants as “irregular” by ministerial fiat, without due process or right of review
  • Holding such refugee claimants in detention for a minimum of one year
  • Denying such refugee claimants access to health services
  • Denying monthly detention reviews that would limit migrants in jail a
  • chance to gain freedom only once every 6 months after the first year.
  • Denying the right of appeal to a rejected refugee claim.
  • Providing the Minister with full discretionary authority to revoke a person’s refugee status after it has been granted by the refugee determination process
  • Postponing a claimant’s application for permanent residence for five years after the claimant has gained refugee status
  • Barring people from reuniting with their families for at least five years (more typically ten years) after gaining refugee status
  • Preventing refugee migrants from leaving Canada for five years after gaining refugee status.
As Jews we are particularly sensitive to unjust and arbitrary immigration and refugee policies. We have not forgotten the shameful 1939 decision by the Canadian government to deny the landing of the refugee ship, St Louis. Many of its nine hundred Jewish refugees were sent back to their deaths in Europe. Passage of Bill C-49 will no doubt result in the suffering of future refugees as well, and the needless harassment and suffering of others who do make it through the process.

We recognize that human smuggling is a problem, and that some refugee claims are bogus. But Bill C-49's approach is simply wrong. By targeting refugee claimants who arrive in Canada by roundabout means, it ignores the fact that often the most threatened refugees are precisely those that do not have the ability to obtain all the necessary travel documents. In addition, by putting so much discretion in the hands of the Minister, the bill allows for political considerations to come into play in an arena where justice demands that unpopular decisions must sometimes be made.

We urge the government to withdraw Bill C-49.

Yours truly,

Nathan Gilbert
On behalf of Congregation Darchei Noam’sSocial Justice Advocacy Committee


Hon. Jason Kenney MP, Minister of Immigration
Hon. Vic Toews MP, Minister of Justice
Justin Trudeau, MP, Immigration Critic (Liberal)
Olivia Chow, MP, Immigration Critic (NDP)


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