Home Page Election 2019 News Opinion Foreign Policy Politics Policy Legislation Lobbying Hill Life & People Hill Climbers Heard On The Hill Calendar Archives Classifieds
Hill Times Events Inside Ottawa Directory Hill Times Store Hill Times Careers The Wire Report The Lobby Monitor Parliament Now
Subscribe Free Trial Reuse & Permissions Advertising
Log In

UNHCR calls for safe country review mechanism

By Anca Gurzu      
Share a story
The story link will be added automatically.

Even people from a safe country of origin may have a legitimate request for protection, says the director of division of international protection at the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. So any reform of the Canadian refugee system would need to include a review mechanism to ensure potential erroneous decisions can be corrected.

“We just want to make sure that if you use the procedural tool of a safe country of origin, and that if a wrong decision is made at the first instance, that there is a correction build into the system,” Volker Türk told Embassy this week during a visit to Ottawa. “At the moment we don’t see that.”

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney tabled Bill C-11 in Parliament at the end of March, proposing several new measures to reform the refugee system, which he says has recently seen a wave of unjustified asylum claims from democratic countries. Among others, the new law would aim to speed up the refugee process and would also see the creation of the Refugee Appeal Division.

One measure that has drawn the most attention and criticism, however, is the safe countries of origin list. The minister would be able to put together a list of democratic countries with a sound human rights record which don’t normally produce refugees.

Under the proposed legislation, neither the minister nor claimants from a safe country of origin would have the right to appeal a failed claim at RAD. Claimants would, however, be able to appeal at the Federal Court.

“Of course there are countries in the world where the democratic evolvement, human rights development and protection are very good, and you could say that 99 per cent of people from this country would not face difficulties. But you never know,” Mr. Türk said. “There’s always the one or two cases where indeed people may have a legitimate protection interest.”

Mr. Türk and his team at the international protection division in Geneva develop policies and advise both UNHCR offices and states on how to tackle the threats faced by those forcibly displaced.

Although details of how such a review mechanism would work remain unclear, Mr. Türk said its existence is important “in order not to frustrate the judicial mechanism at the highest level.” One example would be to have a reviewer re-examine the merits of a case and potentially allow a claimant from a safe country of origin the right to appeal at RAD.

“We would want to see the possibility of review in the bill that would ensure quality control of that first instance decision,” he explained.

Mr. Türk, who praised Canada’s commitment to refugee protection, said he will have a chance to express his specific concerns about the bill in front of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration next week.

Meanwhile, members of this committee have been hearing from several groups and refugee advocates on the bill over the past few weeks.

Although welcoming the positive aspects of Bill C-11, many of them also reflected Mr. Türk’s points and targeted the safe countries of origin proposals during their address.

“The introduction of the safe or designated countries of origin, is, in our view, a serious mistake,” Wanda Yamamoto, president of the Canadian Council for Refugees, told committee members last week. “Under the proposed bill, nationals of designated countries would be denied access to an appeal on merits. They would also face a bias against them even at the first level since decision makers would be aware of the government’s judgment on the country.”

Ms. Yamamoto said her group understands the importance of dealing with unfounded refugee claims, but also pointed out that even in countries deemed safe women may suffer gender-based persecution, while gays and lesbians may also suffer abuse.

Concerns over these specific groups were also raised by Amy Casipullai, policy and public education co-ordinator at the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants.

“The point is that each circumstance would be unique and would deserve full and fair consideration on the merits, and we fear that the fast process would not allow that to happen,” Ms. Casipullai said. “We are concerned that this process would become highly politicized and would then have an impact on refugees, with the possibility of tragic consequences.”

The potential political implications that come with the creation of the safe countries of origin list were also raised last week at the committee by Mitchell Goldberg, from the citizenship and immigration law section at the Canadian Bar Association.

“The designated list unnecessarily politicizes the process,” he said. “People who are deemed to be on this designated so-called safe list would be denied this very important, very crucial appeal on the merits for life and death decisions.”

Michael Bossin, past president of the refugee network at Amnesty International, said the safe countries of origin clause would treat claimants differently based on the reputation of their country of origin, which is unfair.

“They are not treated differently because of what they did, they’re treated differently because of the national country of origin, from where they come from.”

The committee will continue to hear from groups and community members until the end of the month, before members start proposing their amendments to the bill.


McKenna wins re-election in Ottawa Centre, trumpets voters’ support for climate fight

News|By Neil Moss
'I’m so relieved,' Catherine McKenna said, about continuing with the Liberal climate change plan.

Election 2019 was a ‘campaign of fear,’ say pollsters

'There may well be a message to this to the main parties, that slagging each other will only take you so far,' says Greg Lyle.

Election 2019 campaign one of the most ‘uninspiring, disheartening, and dirtiest’ in 40 years, says Savoie

News|By Abbas Rana
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May says she has never seen an election where mudslinging overwhelmingly dominated the campaign, leaving little or no time for policy discussion.

Strategic voting to determine if Liberals will form government, say political players

News|By Abbas Rana
As many as nine per cent of progressive voters could vote strategically in this close election potentially affecting the outcome in more than 100 ridings, says Innovative Research president Greg Lyle.

Turkish offensive should pressure feds to act on repatriation of Canadian citizens in Kurdish-controlled ISIS detention camps, says expert

News|By Neil Moss
The issue of repatriation will be less politically fraught after the election, says expert.

Business tops experience among 2019 candidates, one-third have run for office before

Here’s an analysis of the record 1,700-plus candidates running for the six major parties this election.

Pod save us all: the growing role of political podcasts in election 2019

News|By Mike Lapointe
The Hill Times spoke with some podcast hosts taking a deeper dive into the political nitty-gritty, within a medium that only continues to grow in popularity.

No-shows from Conservative candidate could hurt party’s chances in tight Kanata-Carleton race, say politicos

News|By Palak Mangat
The Conservative's candidate, Justin McCaffrey, has skipped two events, including a debate on the environment, intended to feature all candidates.

For whom will the bell toll in Peterborough-Kawartha?

In a riding where voters are deeply engaged in the political process, candidates avoid the low-hanging fruit and stay out of the mud as they grapple with who to send to the House of Commons.
Your group subscription includes premium access to Politics This Morning briefing.