There are many problematic points. This news release from the Canadian Council for Refugees lists some of them.
This can especially impact women fleeing abuse and people making refugee claims based on sexual orientation or sexual identity. CCR: "In many countries that otherwise seem fairly peaceful and "safe", there can be serious problems of persecution on these grounds. Yet, these claimants will not get access to an appeal, as would other claimants."
Note that the government has not and will not release any such list before the House of Commons votes on this legislation. Obviously Harper wants to avoid an outcry from both communities in Canada when countries are on the list (Mexico, Hungary, and of course the US) and from particular countries that will not make the list, leading to potential trade and diplomatic issues (China, Saudi Arabia, and others).
In other words, they want the House of Commons to approve this bill with a portion of it already redacted. There's that legendary transparency again.
"Refugees are among the most vulnerable people in society and are easy targets for attack, as non-citizens in a foreign country. Disparaging labels, especially coming from government, profoundly damage public perception of refugees, and non-citizens in general."
Thomas Walkom writes in the Star:
...what Kenny didn't mention when he introduced his reforms Tuesday is that two-thirds of this backlog stems from his government's refusal to appoint enough adjudicators to hear cases.
This isn't my opinion. It's that of Auditor General Sheila Fraser, who reported in 2009 that the government's decision to leave unfilled about one-third of the positions in the quasi-judicial Immigration and Refugee Board had caused the backlog to double.
Since then, the backlog has tripled.
. . . .
Nothing is easy about the refugee system. On the one hand, there really are persecuted people in the world who need asylum. And, as one judge noted two years ago, after ordering the refugee board to re-examine the case of a Mexican woman denied asylum, the fact that a foreign government claims to respect human rights does not necessarily mean it does so.
Yet on the other, there are frauds whose false claims both clog the refugee system and diminish its legitimacy.
The trick for any government is to strike the right balance.
Kenny claims his bill does just that. It does not. Like previous reforms, it would set deadlines for dealing with refugee cases. But it offers no hint as to how these deadlines might be met. It would take apart a system that (except for the government's failure to staff its own refugee board) has been improving and, instead, replace it with a more arbitrary one.
More to the point, it would give cabinet far too big a role in deciding which countries produce genuine refugees. That's a power no government – particularly this one – should have.
Canada's refugee system - like its health care system - actually works beautifully under the proper conditions. It needs only to be properly funded in order to meet its tremendous potential.
Many, if not most, Canadians know this. The CIC commissioned Harris-Decima to hold a series of focus groups on this issue. Despite what you may hear from the neo-con media, the results really didn't go their way. The majority of Canadians want Canada to be a safe haven for refugees and believe the system should err on the side of asylum, since to deny refuge can have such very serious consequences on real people's lives. Some results of the surveys - and an analysis of the Government's public relations battle on this issue - are here in Embassy magazine.
We need citizen, MP, and expert input into these proposed changes. In addition, the Harper Government must remember that Canada has obligations under international law. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has already warned Canada about a two-tiered system.
If you're still reading, here's a letter a friend of mine sent to the leaders of all the opposition parties, cc'd to all opposition MPs.
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Dear Member of Parliament,
I am writing to you today to urge you to support holding Committee Hearings on Bill C-11 before it proceeds to second reading.
I am extremely concerned that the Conservative government has introduced a major overhaul of the refugee system that will end up doing enormous harm to refugee applicants and deny them a fair hearing.
The proposed legislation calls for an initial hearing for claimants 8 days after they apply for refugee protection. It's fundamentally unfair to expect that people who are trying to escape persecution would have all of their documentation and information ready in such a short period of time. Many claimants are escaping persecution, torture, abuse, and other horrors and I don't think that Jason Kenney can say that he is standing up for "genuine refugees" when he is denying them enough time to fairly put their case forward.
As well, creating a two-tier system based on the country of origin of the applicant is contrary to the principle that refugee protection is granted to the individual, not the country.
I also urge you to speak out against Mr. Kenney's constant reference to "bogus refugee claimants". Even the Harris Decima focus group report which was done for the Conservatives shows that Canadians want a system which errs on the side of fairness to applicants. Mr. Kenney is trying to shift public opinion so people will think that the problems with the refugee system are the result of an influx of "bogus" claimants, rather than his own government's refusal to fully staff the Immigration and Refugee Board.
It is when the most vulnerable people in society are under attack that we need courageous voices to stand up for what is right and just.
Yours truly, etc.
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