Bill C-280 (Historical)
An Act to Amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (coming into force of sections 110, 111 and 171)
This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in September 2008.
This bill was previously introduced in the 39th Parliament, 1st Session.
Nicole Demers Bloc
Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)
(This bill did not become law.)
- May 30, 2007 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.
- May 9, 2007 Passed That Bill C-280, An Act to Amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (coming into force of sections 110, 111 and 171), be concurred in at report stage.
- March 21, 2007 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration.
Balanced Refugee Reform Act
April 29th, 2010 / 12:30 p.m.
Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC
We can only hope he will come back, although I doubt the hon. member for Outremont feels the same. My point is that we have been waiting for this measure for nearly eight years. This also explains, in large part, the injustice of the current system, which was never completed. I will come back to this later.
We believe that this notion of safe country is discriminatory, because it means that the refugee claims of individuals from so-called safe countries will not have the right to appeal their cases before this appeal division and will have to take their cases to the Federal Court, as is the case right now. We have already seen all the problems and concerns associated with such a situation. We saw the example this week of the pregnant woman from Guinea who, just a few minutes before she was supposed to board a plane for her deportation, was granted a four-month stay of deportation by the Federal Court.
Since the Appeal Division has not been instituted, they will have to keep going to the Federal Court to make sure that the new evidence her lawyer has uncovered is taken into account and she can get refugee status. In this instance, the lady was more or less fooled by a consultant, who did a poor job of preparing her case. She cannot appeal because the Appeal Division will not come into force until two years after the bill passes.
I want to remind the House that a real appeal procedure for refugee claimants should have been instituted as soon as the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act took effect in June 2002. The Bloc Québécois also had a unanimous motion adopted by the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration on December 14, 2004 asking the Liberal government of the time to immediately institute the Appeal Division.
Despite the adoption of this unanimous motion, the Liberal government did not budge, no more than the ensuing Conservative government. We therefore introduced private member’s bills, including Bill C-280 instituting the Refugee Appeal Division, which was introduced in October 2006.
We were back at it in February 2009 with Bill C-291. It is very sad that the bill was defeated by a single vote, 142 to 143. If it had not been for the notable absence of several Liberals, the bill would have passed easily. I hope they are asking themselves some serious questions in the Liberal Party. Is there really any difference between the Conservative government and the opposition? For my part, I do not think so. I like to say they are like two peas in a pod, but it is not very funny.
If not for the cowardice of certain Liberal members, the Bloc bill would have passed. We are glad all the same to see in Bill C-11 that the Refugee Appeal Division is finally being implemented. Once again, though, we think it is appalling that some refugee claimants will be precluded from the Appeal Division because of the distinction the bill draws between safe and unsafe countries. I think this is discrimination. We will ensure, therefore, that the witnesses who appear before the committee do what they can to enlighten the government and the members of all parties so that this regrettable situation is corrected.
In addition, the minister is playing with words when he says that the claims from people from safe countries will be expedited. The procedure will certainly be accelerated, but only because these claimants will be precluded from any recourse to the Appeal Division. As soon as the immigration official makes his decision, these claimants will be accepted as refugees or will have to leave, unless they take their case to the Federal Court. We will certainly take issue with this.
What concerns me the most is the fact that the bill gives the minister the legal authority to designate safe countries of origin. According to the government, safe countries of origin generally do not produce refugees, have a good human rights record, and protect their citizens well.
Sometimes, even in countries that are relatively democratic, people can be harassed or have their lives threatened because of their sexual orientation, gender or religion.
For all these reasons, we will vote in favour of Bill C-11 at second reading in order to study it in committee. I remind the House once again that we want to see the regulations before proceeding to clause by clause study of the bill.
Balanced Refugee Reform Act
April 29th, 2010 / 10:45 a.m.
Diane Bourgeois Terrebonne—Blainville, QC
Madam Speaker, it was in March that the federal government introduced the bill we are discussing today, Bill C-11, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and the Federal Courts Act and called it part of its balanced refugee reform. The minister said that its objective is to preserve the system's integrity by reducing wait times for refugee claims to be processed and, he said, to give people the protection they need more quickly. The bill proposes spending an additional $540.7 million over five years.
The Bloc Québécois will support this bill so that it is referred to committee and an in-depth study can be undertaken of the refugee system, its flaws and the proposed amendments. The Bloc Québécois will work hard to see that all the necessary amendments are passed so that this reform is effective and so that claims are processed quickly and processed fairly, in the case of refugees. Many of the measures in this bill are interesting. And even though they are being proposed as part of the reform of Canada's asylum system, we believe that they are hiding other, more worrying proposals. In our opinion, the bill we are discussing today, Bill C-11, contains fundamental flaws.
What we noticed as we were going through this bill initially was the typically Conservative ideology that seeks to differentiate between genuine and false claimants. We are concerned about that because we believe that reforms based on that kind of discriminatory principle could be deeply prejudicial toward refugees. The bill also gives the minister significant latitude in designing the asylum-granting system. We also noticed that several of the measures announced as part of this reform do not appear in the bill. For example, the minister can designate countries of origin according to criteria set out in regulations published in the Canada Gazette, but the criteria used in creating the list of safe countries cannot be debated in the House. We believe that lacks transparency. The minister is really giving himself a lot of powers.
Several other measures also make us worry about the politicization of the system. First, the minister may designate, by order, a country whose classes of nationals, in the Minister’s opinion, meet the criteria established by the regulations. Second, the minister can designate countries whose nationals are precluded from appealing decisions to the refugee appeal division. Third, the minister can prohibit nationals of certain countries from applying for protection. Fourth, the minister can grant an exemption from any obligations of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act on humanitarian and compassionate grounds or on public policy grounds.
Once again, the minister really would be assuming a lot of powers.
The Bloc Québécois believes that an appeal process for refugee claimants should have been instituted when the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act came into force in June 2002. In fact, the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration unanimously passed a Bloc Québécois motion requiring the federal government to set up a refugee appeal division immediately.
We also introduced Bill C-280 in 2006, which became BIll C-291 in 2009, with the aim of establishing a real refugee appeal division. Unfortunately, the House's two official parties, the Conservatives and the Liberals, joined forces to defeat that bill. Members on both sides either abstained or were absent.
Some members hid behind the curtains, so they would not have to vote.
The Bloc Québécois is delighted that the bill before us could finally establish a refugee appeal division and allow new measures to be added to the system, even though the refugee appeal division will not be up and running until two years after the new Immigration and Refugee Protection Act comes into force.
Also, unsuccessful claimants from countries that are deemed safe will have no right to appeal the initial decision rendered by public servants. We believe this measure is far too strict. It is unfair that claimants from a safe country whose first application is denied cannot appeal their cases before the refugee appeal division, and instead must take their cases to Federal Court.
Earlier I spoke about designated countries of origin. I spoke about designated countries and other countries. The United Kingdom uses a fast tracking process to examine refugee claims from designated countries. Canada, on the other hand, would assess all claims from all countries the same way. The only reason the process would be any faster is that unsuccessful claimants from countries that are deemed safe will have no right to appeal their case before the new refugee appeal division. We think this measure is discriminatory.
The principle of safe countries raises a number of other concerns. First, the fact that a refugee can be classified as a false claimant even before his or her case is analyzed can be extremely prejudicial. Even though the government assures us that all claims will be analyzed on their own merits, it cannot guarantee that no mistakes will be made in first-level decisions. For this reason in particular, the committee must look at this issue and consider how such a designation by the minister could affect refugee claimants.
The Bloc Québécois had made it known that it wanted all failed refugee claimants to have access to the refugee appeal division, regardless of their country of origin. Our critic on the committee is willing to look at any measures that would correct this flaw, such as including criteria for designating safe countries in the bill. As things now stand, these criteria would be established by regulation.
Canada's asylum system has always been based on reliable, solid resources that make for sound decisions. The proposal to submit all the necessary documents within eight days and hold hearings within 60 days after the claim is made could mean a change in this procedure and could have serious consequences for refugees. With such short deadlines, decision-makers could make decisions too quickly, and the quality of the decisions would suffer as a result.
Refugees have the right to find a lawyer and assemble all the documents they need for their testimony. This is a fundamental rule of justice.
I want to make one last point. The fact that IRB officials make the first-level decisions is problematic. These officials are probably long-standing employees, but it is essential that they demonstrate a certain level of independence.
Lastly, Bill C-11 must be studied in committee, because it has major flaws. That is why it will be sent to committee. I am sure that our critic on the committee will clearly state the Bloc's position.
June 9th, 2009 / 9:40 a.m.
Thierry St-Cyr Jeanne-Le Ber, QC
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
During the last Parliament, Bill C-280, a bill to implement the Refugee Appeal Division, was adopted in the House at every stage, as well as in the Senate. However, it died on the Order Paper before receiving Royal Assent.
In this Parliament, Bill C-291 also aims to implement the Refugee Appeal Division. It has been adopted and is moving forward.
I know that the Conservatives are against the implementation of the Refugee Appeal Division, as it was set out in the legislation of 2002, but has your department nevertheless set aside money, or created mechanisms, in case Parliament decides to adopt this bill?
Liberal Party of Canada
Statements By Members
June 1st, 2009 / 2:05 p.m.
Pascal-Pierre Paillé Louis-Hébert, QC
Mr. Speaker, this House has twice supported implementing a refugee appeal division. The first time, Bill C-280, introduced by the Bloc Québécois, went through all the stages in the House and the Senate, but died when this government made an early election call. Reintroduced barely a month ago, Bill C-291, sponsored by my colleague from Jeanne-Le Ber, once again received the support of the House.
Yet even though they supported Bill C-291 during the vote at second reading, the Liberals are now working with the Conservatives to block the bill in committee. The Liberals claim to stand up for refugees, but in fact, they are in bed with the Conservatives.
It is pathetic that the Liberals, who claim to support Bill C-291, should be playing the government's game.
Clearly, the Liberal leader's new strategy is to talk out of both sides of his mouth in order to fool the public, especially refugees, whose status is precarious.
Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
Private Members' Business
March 12th, 2009 / 6:10 p.m.
Rick Dykstra Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague for his speech and certainly the work that he is doing on the immigration and citizenship committee. Regardless of political stripe, we on occasion have been able to find some common ground and have been working quite well in the early days of this 40th Parliament.
I do want to thank the hon. member for not singing in the House of Commons. I certainly do not mind him speaking once in awhile, but the last thing I would really want is to hear him sing a tune here in the House of Commons.
Off the top, I want to state that our government's position on Bill C-291 has not changed from that in the 39th Parliament. In fact, we will be opposing the bill, because this bill seeks to establish the refugee appeal division.
There is no question that we strongly support an effective refugee status determination system, but as the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration said yesterday, he was delighted to hear the interest of the member who asked a question on this topic and was hopeful that we could all work together to create a more efficient and effective refugee determination system.
The government opposes this legislation because it is neither necessary in the current system nor is it efficient. It would add considerable delays and costs, both in the start-up and operating costs as well as the prolonged costs for services provided to failed refugees waiting for their fourth level of appeal, which would be this appeal division.
The cost of implementing the refugee appeal division would be in the range of $15 million to $25 million annually in new operating costs, about the same amount in social services costs paid by both the provincial and federal governments for refugees, not to mention start-up costs of approximately $10 million.
It would also add five months to the decision-making process. Provinces such as Ontario, British Columbia and even Quebec would be disproportionately affected by this.
Canadians have a right to be proud of our humanitarian tradition, no question, and as the member for Eglinton—Lawrence, a former Liberal minister of citizenship and immigration, said last June before the human rights committee in the other place:
--[T]he people that I consulted, those from the United Nations responsible for refugees, liked to think of Canada as the premier example of a system for refugee determination that underscored fairness and product.
The member concluded that the current system is fair, that there is no need for another appeal process, as four steps already exist in this decision-making process.
As the member for Eglinton—Lawrence put in his own words:
--I said I would not implement it. Of course, we got into an election so I could not change my mind. When Bill C-280 came forward, I did not see any compelling arguments to make me change my mind.
If a former Liberal citizenship and immigration minister is willing to publicly speak against the bill, which has not been substantively changed since its previous incarnation as Bill C-280, then I have to ask all of my Liberal colleagues across the floor why they would not listen to one of their colleagues and also oppose this bill.
There is a full range of recourses offered by the refugee determination system as a whole. Our refugee determination system is based on a strong, independent, first level decision-making process at the Immigration and Refugee Board.
Rejected applicants can then seek leave for a judicial review at the Federal Court, another form of appeal, if you will. If both the IRB and the Federal Court turn down the applicant's claim, he or she is still entitled to a pre-removal risk assessment before leaving and can also apply for permanent residence on humanitarian or compassionate grounds.
The addition of the refugee appeal division would only add a further level of review to an already comprehensive refugee determination system. Successful refugee applications can take an average of two and a half years to reach permanent residence status. Negative applications can take over five years, and in some cases much longer than that, before an individual has exhausted all avenues of appeal.
We changed the selection process to make it more open and more accountable. This is a great improvement over the years of Liberal patronage to their political friends, appointments such as Mr. Mouammar, who had an acceptance rate double that of the IRB average at that time, which rose to virtually 100% in some cases if one was from the Middle East.
Last year there were 40 Governor in Council appointments and 24 reappointments. With the minister's announcement on March 10, 2009, of two appointments and five reappointments, and his previous announcement of 25 appointments and 3 reappointments in 2009, the board now stands at close to 90% of its full complement. With fewer vacancies on the IRB, genuine refugee claims will be processed and finalized faster, while frivolous asylum applications will be dismissed much more quickly.
Canadians expect their refugee system to help and protect legitimate refugees. As the minister said yesterday in the House, “last year we received 38,000 inland refugee claimants, about 60% of whose applications were rejected by the IRB”.
There are individuals taking advantage of our compassionate nature and seeking refugee status on dishonest grounds. They know the significant length of time that this process affords them. We must fix this.
It is not an uncommon tactic to make a false refugee claim to allow the individual to attempt to make enough connections within the community so that they are able to bolster their humanitarian and compassionate grounds case. This is a fundamental problem that this bill simply does not address. In fact, it would legitimately add to the incentive to make fraudulent applications, as the time before deportation would be extended by at least five months.
In 2008, 34,800 refugee claims were referred to the Immigration and Refugee Board, as compared to 27,912 claims in 2007. This represents an almost 25% increase in refugee claims.
Last year, the former minister of citizenship and immigration, the member for Haldimand—Norfolk, shared her concerns at the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights. She noted the number of refugee claims in Canada was increasing at a rate higher than in almost every other country. She reported that a majority of claimants were found not to be in need of protection. Only 43% of claims finalized by the Immigration and Refugee Board were accepted in 2007 and the acceptance rate dropped to 42% last year.
There are those who would like to take advantage of our generosity in this country and take a place away from those who are genuinely in need of our protection and their own. There are those who come to Canada from countries, such as Mexico, that are not typically seen to produce refugees. Mexico is the largest source country of refugees, with approximately 8,000 individual claims in 2008. Only 10% are successful in their application for status. Very valuable resources are being increasingly diverted from those who need our help to those who are found not to be genuine refugees.
If this bill is implemented, failed refugee claimants will be the ones filing for secondary appeals. It is impossible to predict the number of appeals that could be made every year because each refugee claim is assessed individually. On average, it takes three days to determine an eligibility claim but it takes about 17 months from the date a claim is referred to the IRB to an initial decision rendered by the IRB.
Leave applications for judicial review of the IRB decision can take about four months. If that leave is granted, it can take approximately a year or more to decide the appeal. A pre-removal risk assessment takes about nine months. An application made on humanitarian and compassionate grounds can take an additional 21 months.
A claimant has a right to seek judicial review of negative pre-removal risk assessment and decisions made on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. It adds up. It can take up to five years for almost all of these cases to be handled through the process and up to ten years in some cases. The hon. member's bill would extend that by at least another five months.
We need to consider that almost 35,000 refugee claims were made to the IRB last year. Adding another layer to the current refugee status determination process would not only further paralyze our system, it would erode its very integrity. The Refugee Appeal Division would conduct only a paper review of the evidence presented at the original hearing, it would not allow for the introduction of new evidence or an in-person hearing.
We have monitored the impact of delaying implementation of the Refugee Appeal Division. We have consistently found that even without this fourth layer of review, the current system already provides protection to those who need it.
The implementation of an appeal would be possibly only if the current system could be streamlined to avoid access to multiple and overlapping recourses. Therefore, I urge all hon. members to not support Bill C-291.
World Refugee Day
Statements By Members
June 20th, 2008 / 11 a.m.
Meili Faille Vaudreuil-Soulanges, QC
Mr. Speaker, refugee assistance agencies, such as the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and the Canadian Commission for UNESCO, are joining together today to mark World Refugee Day. This year's theme is “Protecting Refugees: Rebuilding Lives in Safety and Dignity”.
This day is an opportunity to pay tribute to the incredible strength, courage and determination of refugees throughout their ordeal. They have been uprooted and must make the journey from oppression and persecution to asylum and protection before finally finding a place they can call their own. Today is also an opportunity to recognize the people who help refugees rebuild their lives in safety and dignity.
My Bloc Québécois colleagues and I commend the agencies that help refugees rebuild their lives in safety and dignity. We must take real steps to protect refugees. Bill C-280, which was introduced by my colleague from Laval and is designed to protect refugees, will finally bring about the implementation of the refugee appeal division.
June 18th, 2008 / 6:20 p.m.
Ed Komarnicki Souris—Moose Mountain, SK
Mr. Speaker, I understand that Bill C-280 passed in the Senate about 30 minutes ago.
However, that said, the government is committed to the principle of evaluating each case on its own merits and each individual's circumstances.
Before removals or deportations from Canada begin, individuals can ask for the pre-removal risk assessment to examine the risk they might face in returning to their home country, based on evidence that may not have been available at the Immigration and Refugee Board hearing.
During the time that the PRRA is going on, the removal order is stayed and that individual can remain in Canada, but if the assessment fails, removal procedures will resume. Under the single decision-maker model, the pre-removal risk assessment officer is an expert in matters of risk.
However, single decision-makers assess not only risk but also other--
June 18th, 2008 / 6:20 p.m.
Thierry St-Cyr Jeanne-Le Ber, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am a little surprised that the parliamentary secretary, who is so well prepared, does not have an answer to such a simple question about the refugee appeals division.
He forgot to mention that applying for permanent residence on humanitarian grounds is a process often used by refugees whose first application for permanent residence has been denied. As such, it has everything to do with Bill C-280, which is dragging in the Senate.
In the absence of a refugee appeals division, people are looking for another option for victims of bad decisions. That option is applying for permanent residence on humanitarian grounds. The current process is questionable indeed.
Let us return to the first question I would like him to answer. What are we waiting for to ask the senators to send back the amendments they made to Bill C-280? It is not that complicated; we do not need—
June 18th, 2008 / 6:15 p.m.
Thierry St-Cyr Jeanne-Le Ber, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am happy to have the opportunity to speak on this issue today. Some time ago, I asked the minister why in many cases the same immigration officer who analyzes an application for permanent residence on humanitarian grounds also conducts the pre-removal risk assessment or PRRA.
At the time, I was told that this was normal procedure. I do not feel that this is normal at all. It should not happen, because it reduces the likelihood of a fair and equitable decision. It would be like appearing before a judge who ruled against us, then appealing and having the appeal heard by the same judge. Even though the provisions of the act that apply are not the same, the fact remains that the same person will rule on the same case twice. The Bloc Québécois believes—and this opinion is widely shared—that the same officer should not analyze both cases.
First, I would like the minister to tell us whether it is an official, documented policy of the government that the same officer conducts the PRRA and analyzes the application for permanent residence on humanitarian grounds. I wanted this information, but I did not get it.
I would also like to know something else. Since this measure eliminates the possibility of an appeal and there is still no refugee appeal division, does the government plan to put pressure on the unelected Conservative senators who are stalling Bill C-280 in the Senate?
The Liberal and Conservative senators have reached an agreement on the refugee appeal division so that the bill will not take effect until one year after it receives royal assent. This is all well and good, but if an agreement is reached, it should be referred to the House as quickly as possible so that we can make a decision. The Conservatives are stalling this bill in the Senate. They are so critical of the unelected Liberal senators who block, delay or amend Conservative bills. Now, what is happening? The Conservatives themselves are using the Senate to delay a bill that was duly passed in this House by a large majority of members.
I would like to know why the government is doing this. This is important because the refugee appeal division is critical. It would ensure that nobody's fate is determined at the whim of the member responsible for reviewing his or her case.
Take, for example, the case of Abdelkader Belaouni in my riding. His case was assessed by Laurier Thibault, a member who, at the time, rejected 98% of the applications he evaluated. If any other person had to appear before a judge who was known to convict 98% of the people he or she tried, that person would not feel that justice had been served. That is why the refugee appeals division is so important, and that is why the government should not let it drag in the Senate. The government should respect the democratic will of the elected members of this House and the agreement that the Conservatives and Liberals reached in the Senate. When an agreement is negotiated in good faith, the parties to it must fulfill the terms of that agreement.
When will the Senate's amendments to Bill C-280 be considered in this House?
May 27th, 2008 / 9:55 a.m.
Yves Lessard Chambly—Borduas, QC
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
First of all, I would like to correct a comment made by our friend Mr. Lake, who distorted the facts a little. I recall that a recommendation was passed unanimously by this committee to the effect that the money that had been removed from the fund would be repaid in the amount of $1.5 billion per year. This appears in the December 16, 2004 report and again on February 15, 2005. It was recommendation 3 in a unanimous report.
But when we debated Bill C-280, Mr. Peter Van Loan, the government house leader, proposed putting funds into the fund to the tune of $4 billion per year. Our friend Mr. Lake was perfectly right to describe this proposal as quite irresponsible. But now he is sitting with the government, we are told that it is not responsible to put money back in the fund. When you are a member of the opposition, you sometimes say things that you do not hold to when you become a member of the government. I feel that the Conservatives are presently in that position.
That said, we are very worried about your reasoning on the responsibilities of employees and employers. I recall that, in Quebec, the CSST, like other large public and quasi-public organizations, has employees and employers on its board of directors. This morning, you stated once more that the board's directors, seven in number, would be part-time positions. We must therefore conclude that skilled and specialized people will be in place to advise them.
What is preventing you from adopting the proposals from employees and employers about the way the board's directors should be appointed? I am not talking about the entire board, but at least two people from each group.