OTTAWA (April 9 2018) — Refugee advocates stated today that they are appalled the government has slipped in massive human rights reforms in an omnibus budget bill. The government tabled the bill implementing the 2019 federal budget last night. Included in the bill were significant amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (“IRPA”), impacting access to refugee hearings and humanitarian review. Refugee law experts were alarmed that human rights would be curtailed as there is no time to assess the effects of the proposed amendments and the unforeseen consequences on the refugee determination system.
Maureen Silcoff, Litigation Committee Chair of the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, stated: “Stripping these human rights protections from refugee claimants is callous, but doing so through an undemocratic process is even worse. We are shocked that the government would use an omnibus budget bill to strip away human rights protections from vulnerable refugee claimants. Burying these huge changes in a budget means that there will be no opportunity to consider the harmful impacts and the unintended consequences. Removing these protections will result in costly legal challenges, and is bound to create further delay and confusion in the refugee system.”
The Budget Implementation Act proposes to take away the right to a refugee hearing for refugee claimants who have previously made a refugee claim in certain other countries – regardless of whether their claim was decided or whether they had a fair chance at receiving protection there. Those refugee claimants will be stripped of their right to a refugee hearing before an independent tribunal, and will now have their cases assessed by an immigration officer in a pre-removal risk assessment. This is a fundamental change in how the Canadian legal system deals with high-stakes cases. They have traditionally been determined by an independent tribunal with important procedural protections, not an immigration officer. There are also changes limiting when refugee claimants can ask for humanitarian and compassionate consideration in their cases.
Lorne Waldman, executive member of the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, added: “This is an unprecedented break from Canada’s refugee protection practices. There are all kinds of legitimate reasons why a refugee claimants come to Canada after filing a claim in another country. The bottomline is that significant changes to our asylum determination system impacting Canada’s international human rights obligations have no place buried in a budget bill.”
Maureen Silcoff, 416-322-1480, firstname.lastname@example.org
Lorne Waldman, email@example.com
Lobat Sadrehashemi, firstname.lastname@example.org