Imagine that you and your family are refugees from a technically “safe” country, but are experiencing persecution, violence or the threat of violence in your homeland.
To escape this persecution, you flee to a developed country and seek a visa to live there in peace. Because your homeland is classified as “safe” by this developed country, you are not permitted to stay since your homeland and the people there are not considered to be a threat to you or your family.
This is a concern that Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Canada has for refugees who make their way into Canada. Ed Wiebe, MCC Canada’s refugee network coordinator, worries that Canada will value speeding up the line of refugee claimants waiting for interviews to determine their status in Canada over helping people who need a safe haven.
This is one of the reasons why MCC is supporting Amnesty International in calling for a thorough reading of Bill C-11, a piece of legislation they say has some se-rious flaws regarding the potential treatment of refugee claimants.
According to an Amnesty International press release that is supported by the Canadian Council for Refugees and the Refugee Lawyers Association of Ontario, the main flaws of Bill C-11 include:
- Ill-considered haste: Claimants would have an interview eight days after arrival, and a hearing just 60 days later. This denies refugees the opportunity to gather necessary evidence, and will disproportionately affect some of the most vulnerable refugees.
- Bar an appeal for selected nationalities or groups of claimants: This discriminates against a great deal of refugee claimants and violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as well as what Canada has agreed to with the United Nations.
- Denial of humanitarian consideration and pre-removal risk assessments: The proposal to deny access to humanitarian relief, including for children, or to a final assessment of risk prior to deportation, violates Canada’s obligations under both the Charter and international treaties, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Wiebe believes that refugee claimants should be heard individually and not judged on their country of origin, as the situation in their country could have changed drastically without the Canadian government knowing. “They could be the first wave of refugees [from a certain country],” he says.
People coming from certain countries would also be denied appeals in order to speed up the process.
“There are aspects of the Canadian Charter and treaties that we have with the UN that oblige us to treat refugee claimants in certain ways,” Wiebe says. “We can’t make laws that contravene that.”
Wiebe hopes that the bill will get a good hearing in front of a parliamentary standing committee, and that MCC will have the opportunity to make a case about what it is observing about Canada’s refugee system.