Important Refugee Law Case at the Supreme Court of Canada
On 25 March 2014, Amnesty International was at the Supreme Court of Canada for the important refugee law case of Febles v Minister of Citizenship and Immigration.
The case is about who should be excluded from the protections of the 1951 Refugee Convention, for having committed a serious non-political crime prior to arriving in Canada. The government is arguing that someone who committed this type of crime is forever barred from applying for refugee status in Canada, and that any other factors – such as having served a sentence, the lengthy passage of time, or complete rehabilitation – are irrelevant. Furthermore, under the current legal framework, many people are being excluded for having committed crimes that should not qualify as serious.
Amnesty International intervened in Febles in order to share our expertise on how international human rights law should be interpreted and applied in Canada. Our lawyers, from Juristes Power, were Jennifer Klinck, Perri Ravon, Michael Sabet, and Justin Dubois.We argued that the relevant provision of the Refugee Convention – Article 1F(b) – is only concerned with people who are fugitives from justice. Once someone has been fairly tried and punished for his or her crime, this provision should not apply and the person should be allowed to seek refugee status. This interpretation is supported by a number of sources, including decisions by the Supreme Court of Canada, the humanitarian purpose of the Refugee Convention, as well as this treaty’s drafting history.
Also intervening in the case were the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, Canadian Civil Liberties Association, Canadian Council for Refugees, and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
Amnesty International is hopeful that the Supreme Court of Canada will reach a decision that will render this country’s law on 1F(b) exclusions more fair and rational. Being granted asylum is not a trivial matter of achieving a certain status (that of a refugee), but is rather the realization of a fundamental human right – to seek and enjoy asylum from persecution. Canadian decision-makers should be extremely cautious in applying a clause that excludes individuals from accessing the entirety of the protections conferred by the Refugee Convention.