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Refugee Protection in Canada

    May 25, 2015

    On Thursday May 21, Luis Alberto Mata became a permanent resident in Canada. 

    A month earlier, with support from Amnesty International, Luis launched a campaign, No Lives in Limbo calling on the Minister of Public Safety and Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to grant him permanent status. Luis was recognized as a Convention Refugee in Canada in 2003, and then waited 12 years for a decision on his application for permanent residence.  Amnesty International supported Luis and his family over those 12 years.

    Following is part of a message from Luis to those who supported him.

    THE BEST SPRING OF THE LAST 12 YEARS!

    “As I begin this reflection, it comes to my mind a profound and beautiful adage from Aristotle:  "Dignity consists not in possessing honors, but in the consciousness that we deserve them".

    May 08, 2015

    By Gloria Nafziger
    Refugee, Migrants and Country Campaigner, Amnesty International

    I first met Luis and his family shortly after they arrived in Canada sometime in 1993.  He was a writer and human rights activist from Colombia.  Both he and his wife Diana had been targeted in Colombia because of their work in support of human rights.  Shortly after they arrived in Canada they made a refugee claim. We couldn't talk much, because his English was poor and my Spanish was even worse; but from the beginning I considered him to be a compañero. My first vivid memory of Luis is a day in December 2003 when Luis, Diana and their friends from the Mennonite church came to our office to share the good news that just an hour or so earlier their refugee claim had been accepted on the spot at their refugee hearing.  There were many hugs and much happiness.  Luis and Diana began to plan to begin their new lives in Canada and quickly made their application to become permanent residents.

    February 18, 2015

    On 16 and 17 of February, Amnesty International intervened in an important case before the Supreme Court of Canada involving the rights of refugees seeking Canada’s protection. At issue in the case was whether refugees who mutually assist each other in fleeing persecution should be considered people smugglers and as a result inadmissible to Canada and permanently barred from accessing protection under the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (Refugee Convention). The Court was also asked to determine whether Good Samaritans or humanitarian organizations that assist refugees in reaching safety should also be considered to be people smugglers, and prosecuted for their acts.

    November 18, 2014

    The Honourable Joe Oliver, MP, PC
    Minister of Finance
    House of Commons
    Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6

    Dear Minister,

    As organizations that have an interest in ensuring that everyone in Canada has equal access to income security, we are alarmed by the inclusion of sections 172 and 173 in your recently introduced omnibus Budget Bill C-43. These sections amend the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act and are essentially Private Members Bill C-585, which was introduced earlier this year.

    Many of our organizations are health and social service agencies and legal and community advocates that work directly with refugee claimants and others with precarious immigration status. The change that would be made to the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act as a result of these provisions would allow provinces to restrict access to social assistance for refugee claimants and others who have not yet been granted permanent residence.

    October 30, 2014

    Amnesty International is disappointed in the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in the case of Febles v. Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. In a 5-2 split decision, the Court found that if someone committed a serious crime in the past, he or she is forever barred from seeking refugee protection – regardless of such factors as having served a full sentence, the lengthy passage of time, or complete rehabilitation. Amnesty International, represented by Power Law LLP, had intervened in the case in March 2014.

    August 21, 2014

    by Gloria Nafziger
    Campaigner, Refugees and Migrants
    Amnesty International Canada

    On June 19, the federal government passed Bill C-24, a new law which reportedly is designed to “Strengthen Canadian Citizenship”. Amnesty International believes the bill has serious human rights flaws.

    Under this new law, Canadian citizenship will become harder to get and easier to lose. It will take away rights from countless Canadians, creating a two-tier citizenship regime that discriminates against dual nationals and naturalized citizens.

    Amnesty International is concerned that the new law gives the federal government powers to revoke Canadian citizenship in some cases when individuals are convicted of specified crimes related to terrorism and similar offences.

    August 21, 2014
    On June 14, Amnesty supporters in Toronto walked in support of refugees and refugees’ right to seek asylum.

    by Gloria Nafziger
    Campaigner, Refugees & Migrants
    Amnesty International Canada

    On June 14, under the banner of ‘My Door is Open for Refugees,’ Amnesty members and friends walked in support of refugees in Toronto. The streets of Toronto (at least those around Church and Wellesley) were alive with chants which could be heard many blocks away.

    The walk in Toronto took us to the 519 Church Street Community Centre, an organization with a long history of supporting LGBTI refugees. We left a rainbow banner with Karlene Williams Clarke, an outreach coordinator at the Centre, in recognition of the tremendous work being done at the Centre on behalf of refugees.

    The walk was a part of a larger action coordinated by the Canadian Council for Refugees, which encouraged groups across Canada to show solidarity and support for refugees on or around World Refugee Day. 

    July 08, 2014

    Update: Interim Federal Health Care will be reinstated for refugees at midnight 4 November 2014.  However the government has appealed the July decision in the Federal Court of Appeal.

    Amnesty International welcomes the recent decision of the Federal Court  regarding health care for refugees. The court found that the 2012 cuts to health care for refugees through the Interim Federal Health Program constituted “cruel and unusual treatment” and violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The court found that the cuts deliberately targeted refugees, a vulnerable, poor, and disadvantaged group.

    Amnesty International has previously expressed concern that changes to the Interim Federal Health Program were discriminatory and likely to result in violations of the right to health of refugees in Canada, in contravention of Canada’s international human rights obligations.

    June 19, 2014
    Maran and Gloria stand up for refugee rights
    By Gloria Nafziger, Refugee, Migrants and Country Campaigner

    Maran was a journalist and owned his own media company in a country riddled with conflict. Believing that the media was a tool that he could use, he wanted to tell the story of his people to the world.  Telling these stories was a way to protect his people and bring peace to his country.  He faced horrible obstacles.  His land became a place of massacre.  At a certain point, he became helpless and lost the power to speak the truth and fight for freedom.  He had few choices - die, surrender to the Government and become a journalist of propaganda, or flee.  After his family was threatened because of his work, Maran fled.

    Leaving his family, he paid a smuggler who promised to take him to a country where he would be safe. He had no choice about the country, only a small hope that he would eventually be safe.

    March 28, 2014
    By Gloria Nafziger, Refugee, Migrants and Country Campaigner

    There is nothing bogus about the real life events which Gary shared with me. As a gay man in a small Caribbean Island country he tells me he had no social life. He was afraid of being out in public, and pretty much went from home to work and not much else. He had a job but was repeatedly the target of verbal and psychological abuse as a man who everyone suspected was gay.  

    There were no shelters or social groups for him to turn to. He never got beaten up, but that was because he didn’t put himself into dangerous situations. He thought the best way to stay safe was to stay under the radar and not make himself visible. The laws in his country provide for a 15 year prison sentence for homosexual acts. He knew it would be foolish to make complaints about mistreatment which might only draw further unwanted attention.

    December 10, 2013

    December 10th celebrates international human rights and the inherent dignity and equal rights of all members of the human family. Refugees are part of the human family and entitled to the same rights.

    These rights include the rights to asylum, to liberty, to protection from torture, to an adequate standard of living, to healthcare, to be reunited with family and to the protection of the best interests of children.

    Sadly, respect for the rights of refugees is waning. At a time when serious human rights abuses are taking place in every region of the world and displacing millions of people, countries are building administrative walls, closing doors, denying protection.

    September 10, 2013

    By Refugee and Migrants Campaigner Gloria Nafziger and Secretary General Alex Neve

    With over 2 million Syrian refugees having fled to neighbouring countries and well over 4 million Syrians internally displaced within the country, the crisis of displacement that has resulted from the massive human rights violations in Syria over the past 2 ½ years has been termed the gravest humanitarian emergency the world has faced in years. In the face of such a massive crisis, it is vital that Canada play a leadership role in ensuring a strong and effective global response to the pressing needs of displaced Syrians.

    July 23, 2013

    Your support for Amnesty International has helped us achieve a legal victory in Canada that could have far reaching and live-saving implications for refugees who seek asylum in Canada and elsewhere.

    In July 2013, Canada’s highest court, the Supreme Court of Canada, ruled in the case of Rachidi Ekanza Ezokola, a case that grapples with the thorny issue of who can be excluded from refugee status. Their unanimous decision has brought Canada’s interpretation fully into line with international law.

    Amnesty’s first-rate team of pro bono lawyers, comprised of Michael Bossin, Laïla Demirdache and Chantal Tie, assisted by our Legal Coordinator Anna Shea, laid out our position in arguments before the Court back in January 2013. We've waited six months for the decision.

    April 04, 2013

    April 4 is Refugee Rights Day in Canada.

    This day marks the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s 1985 Singh decision. In this decision the Supreme Court found that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects the fundamental rights of refugees. The Court decided that where the Charter declares ‘Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice;’  ‘everyone’ includes refugees.

    Today the Canadian Council for Refugees and other organizations across Canada announced the launch of a campaign designed to transform the conversation about refugees in Canada. Under the banner ‘Proud to Protect Refugees’, they are dedicated to new efforts to promote a positive vision of what we want for refugees and of the important contributions refugees make to our  communities.

    They are calling on all Canadians to show their pride in protecting refugees.

    December 14, 2012

    On the eve of the introduction of important changes to Canada’s refugee determination system, the Canadian Council for Refugees and Amnesty International expressed fear that the system will fail some refugees, violate their rights in Canada, and send them back to persecution.

    “The whole purpose of our refugee system is to protect people whose lives and liberty are threatened in their country of origin,” said Loly Rico, President of the Canadian Council for Refugees. “But the new system does not take their realities into account, particularly the realities of the most vulnerable, such as survivors of torture and women who have experienced sexual violence. They may end up being wrongly rejected.”

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