BRIEF TO THE HOUSE OF COMMONS STANDING COMMITTEE ON CITIZENSHIP AND IMMIGRATION ON BILL C-11, THE BALANCED REFUGEE REFORM ACT
SUMMARY OF BILL C-11 AND AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL’S CONCERNS WITH THE PROPOSED LAW
BILL C-11, the Balanced Refugee Reform Act, was introduced in the House of Commons in March 2010. The Bill introduced a number of amendments into the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and the Federal Courts Act that the government purported would make the refugee determination process in Canada “fast, fair, and efficient” Bill C-11:
- introduced amendments that shortened the timelines for the refugee determination process;
- provided that IRB hearings would no longer be conducted by Governor-in-Council appointees but rather by civil servants;
- expedited the refugee determination process for claimants coming from “designated countries of origin” (DCOs) that the government considers to be safe countries without serious human rights concerns;
- barred foreign nationals from making a humanitarian and compassionate (H&C) grounds application if that foreign national had made a claim for refugee protection and less than 12 months have passed since a decision was made with respect to that claim. Bill C-11 also provided that in examination H&C applications, officers may not consider factors used to support the refugee claim, but must consider hardships that the applicant would face if denied protection;
- established a new Refugee Appeal Division (RAD) that would be able to review a decision of the Refugee Protection Division (RPD) of the Immigration and Refugee Board. The new provisions would allow failed claimants to appeal a negative RPD decision unless they are nationals of DCOs or belonged to a designated class of individuals; and
- provided that a failed refugee claimant will not receive a Pre-Removal Risk Assessment in the first year after their claim was denied, unless they were excluded from protection or their claim was withdrawn or abandoned.
While Bill C-11 included some laudable initiatives, notably the implementation of the RAD, Amnesty International argued that its measures sacrifice a fair process for all claimants in the name of speed and efficiency. In particular, Amnesty International expressed serious concerns with the DCO list, the unrealistic and inappropriate timelines, and the significant changes to H&C applications, arguing that if implemented, the amendments would violate Canada’s international and Charter obligations regarding equality before the law. They would also increase the likelihood that persons in need of Canada’s protection would instead be exposed to risk.
STATUS OF BILL
Bill C-11 was passed and received Royal Assent in June 2010.
In 2015, the bar to a right of appeal to the Refugee Appeal Division for refugee claimants from DCOs introduced by Bill C-31 was found by the Federal Court of Canada to be unconstitutional in the case of Y.Z. v Canada. On 7 January 2016, the newly elected government of Canada announced that it would discontinue its appeal of the case to the Federal Court of Appeal.