Evidence of meeting #39 for Citizenship and Immigration in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was refugee.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

4 p.m.

Founder and Member of the Board, Rainbow Refugee Committee

Christine Morrissey

First of all, yes, we know that quite a number of people come to Canada as a result of their fear of persecution. We see people from Southeast Asia, from many African countries, from many South American countries. We've also seen people, interestingly, from Mongolia and Moldova, and they have both been given refugee status because of their situations.

The reality is that there are many people who come to Canada specifically for that, to seek that protection.

4 p.m.

Member of the Board, Rainbow Refugee Committee

Sharalyn Jordan

It's important to recognize that just because a country is democratic, has an independent judiciary, and has civil society organizations, it does not mean it is not refugee-producing, when it comes to sexual orientation and gender identity claims.

We have seen that people's social class, social networks, religion, region, all affect the viability of state protection as well as their vulnerability to violence. People are targeted because they stand out, because they are poor, along with their gender identity or sexuality.

Those are two reasons why it's very important not to have broad criteria that do not consider the human rights record of countries, particularly the human rights record with regard to vulnerable groups. It is also absolutely critical that if a designated list is maintained, we do not deny the right to appeal. This is in keeping with the UNHCR guidelines. They say it is all right to expedite a process and to identify people for expedited processing, but not to deny due process. Equality before the law is the principle that we uphold in Canada.

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Sadia Groguhé Saint-Lambert, QC

So you think that, even though some of these countries have a legal system, rights and freedoms democratic covered under legislation, LGBT individuals may still be persecuted despite all of this?

4:05 p.m.

Member of the Board, Rainbow Refugee Committee

Sharalyn Jordan

That's exactly right, yes, very much so. We gave the example of South Africa. We've seen this in Colombia. I've had one gentleman describe Bogotá as a wonderful city in which to be gay, and another had to flee for 10 years and stay in hiding because of death threats. So it is very much a situation that must be determined on a case-by-case basis, and there must be a right to appeal.

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Sadia Groguhé Saint-Lambert, QC

Very well.

The Balanced Refugee Reform Act was adopted in 2010 following compromise and relentless work by all the parties of the House. In accordance with one of those compromises, the delay for refugee status applications was reduced to just 28 days. What challenges do you have to face because of these already reduced delays? What problems do you anticipate, given the even tighter delays being proposed under this bill?

4:05 p.m.

Member of the Board, Rainbow Refugee Committee

Sharalyn Jordan

We appreciate that the government has seen that the initial interview or the screening interview at 15 days will not work. It will be ineffective and costly.

As people who are on the ground with refugee claimants, we can tell you that legal aid applications in B.C. take at least a week, and good refugee lawyers meet with their claimants at least three or four times before they prepare the written document. There will not be time in 15 days. We need at least 30 days for a basis-of-claim document.

Then in terms of preparing for hearings, you are asking people to document hidden forms of persecution. They go to great lengths to find medical records, police records, and this takes time when you're navigating in different languages. The 30 days or 45 days or 60 days proposed under Bill C-31 simply will not work. People will arrive inadequately prepared, and we have seen that bad evidence results in bad decisions.

In Canada we have some of the finest decision-makers in the world around sexual orientation and gender identity. They understand the issues. They have been trained. But you need to give them the opportunity to do their job right.

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Sadia Groguhé Saint-Lambert, QC

You wrote the following in the brief you submitted to our committee: "Ensuring that Canada's refugee system provides fair and effective protection for LGBT refugees requires understanding the particular manifestation and impacts of SOGI persecution."

Could you comment on this to provide clarification?

4:05 p.m.

Member of the Board, Rainbow Refugee Committee

Sharalyn Jordan

I'm not sure I understand the question, I'm sorry.

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Sadia Groguhé Saint-Lambert, QC

You say in your brief that it is essential that Canada provide fair and effective protection for refugees, but that it is important to understand how sexual orientation and gender identity persecution happens and what the consequences of it are.

4:05 p.m.

Member of the Board, Rainbow Refugee Committee

Sharalyn Jordan

All forms of persecution are heinous, but there are particular characteristics to sexual orientation and gender identity based claims that make giving an account of this kind of persecution especially difficult for claimants. One is that it usually occurs outside of the public eye. Often it is in families. Often people are betrayed by their family members and by their classmates. The traumas they've experienced are associated with relational betrayal and sexual violence. Both of these are particularly traumatizing, and we know through the psychological literature that they have long-standing impacts on a person's ability to give coherent testimony.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair David Tilson

I'm sorry, Ms. Jordan, we're going to have to move on.

Mr. Valeriote, welcome to the immigration committee.

May 3rd, 2012 / 4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Guelph, ON

Thank you so much. It's a wonderful opportunity.

I come from the agriculture committee, so you'll forgive any misunderstandings of this legislation. I have looked at it for quite some time, mind you, and I know that immigration issues, and particularly refugee issues, are very complex, especially in our global society, and will only grow more complex with populations that will be displaced because of global warming and the many more claims that will arise.

When I look at this legislation, I have to say from my perspective that it's a rather simplistic approach to rather complex issues, particularly when it comes to naming countries as safe countries and just making certain assumptions that will arise from that, and declaring certain arrivals as irregular and all the consequences that arise from that. My questions really arise from those two issues.

From my experience travelling in other countries, I'm very aware that there are a lot of people—most refugees I would think—who would rather spend a year in a detention centre in Canada than in a refugee camp, or subjecting their lives to a certain threat in the country from which they come. It makes me question the sincerity that's found in the notion of detention.

In your opinion, will it really be a deterrent, or is it really there to satisfy some people in Canada to give the appearance that we're going to try to hold people back, especially when it is associated with a five-year penalty of not being able to claim landed immigrant status?

4:10 p.m.

Founder and Member of the Board, Rainbow Refugee Committee

Christine Morrissey

The reality is that people who are genuine refugees who live in really challenging circumstances and face persecution on a regular basis will find whatever means they can to come to a place of safety. Certainly, Canada has been identified as one of those by many people around the world, and that is very clear from the sexual orientation and gender identity perspectives.

I agree with you that there are many people who would prefer to spend a year in detention, and I do think it is a way of appeasing the Canadian public—the ones that Michael mentioned before. To some extent that has grown because of the way the media have painted things, and the way the public has been exposed to this ongoing language around refugees and refugee asylum seekers. The problem with the detention that's presented in Bill C-31 is not the detention per se. The problem is the 12-month no review. A 12-month no review is totally outside of Canada's legal framework.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Guelph, ON

I know the Supreme Court set out in the Singh decision that the charter guarantees are applicable to refugee claimants. It was also set out in the Charkaoui case that detention without review within 120 days is unconstitutional.

Let me ask you arising from that—and Michael and John, you are welcome to jump in on any of these at any time—without referring to the specific sections of the legislation, would it be your intention, or do you know of other groups whose intentions it would be, to appeal and take these matters to court should the legislation pass in its current form, and to contest the legislation as being unconstitutional?

4:10 p.m.

Founder and Member of the Board, Rainbow Refugee Committee

Christine Morrissey

Unfortunately, none of us are lawyers and so it's very hard for us to speak about that, but certainly in the groups and consultations that we have attended, there is serious consideration being given on the part of lawyers who work with refugees that this will be contested.