Mr. Speaker, I would ask this member to pay attention and he will hear what the government's position is on this matter. One person can make a decision on two separate issues that are different from each other.
I certainly appreciate this opportunity to respond.
The Government of Canada is fully committed to a well managed and efficient immigration system, one that helps those who are legitimately in need of protection, because Canadians expect their refugee system to help and protect legitimate refugees.
Amendments to the former immigration regulations in 1993 created a safety net for failed refugee claimants who could face serious risk of harm if sent back to their country of origin.
While laudable, these amendments created a lengthier and more complex process and did nothing to quash allegations that failed refugee claimants were being denied meaningful opportunities to present their cases fully and fairly.
In response, Citizenship and Immigration Canada created a model called the “single decision-maker”. Under this model, officers with particular expertise in the assessment of risks were given responsibility for assessing humanitarian and compassionate applications that raised questions of hardship based on those risks.
These officers, now called pre-removal risk assessment officers, use their expertise to examine these applications rather than having them assessed by generalist officers of CIC.
In addition to making a humanitarian and compassionate application, those who feel they would be at risk can apply for a pre-removal risk assessment, or PRRA, before they are removed.
This pre-removal risk assessment allows for new evidence to be brought forward beyond what is heard initially at the Immigration and Refugee Board. The applicants have the right to remain in Canada during these proceedings.
The pre-removal risk assessment officer examines the pre-removal risk assessment application and considers, separately and completely, all factors that are raised in applications made on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, including hardship in the country of origin.
In assessing both applications simultaneously, single decision-makers examine all aspects of the alleged risks from both perspectives. The factors assessed in a humanitarian and compassionate application are much broader than the risk element considered under the pre-removal risk assessment, and the legal tests are different.
The government is committed to the principle of evaluating each case on its own merits and each individual's circumstances.
The single decision-maker model was put in place to ensure more efficiency in the process and to improve the quality of humanitarian and compassionate decision making. The pre-removal risk assessment officers are trained for both applications and are well aware of the differences between each of them.
As to the question of the appearance of bias, a 2006 Federal Court of Appeal case judge ruled:
--there is nothing in the record to suggest that the officer could not be neutral or that a reasonable person, fully informed about the facts and circumstances of the decision regarding the appellants, would fear that the officer in question lacked objectivity.
In another 2004 landmark case challenging negative decisions, the judge concluded that the applicant failed to produce any specific evidence of bias or conflict of interest and found the process involved in the pre-removal risk assessment and the humanitarian and compassionate applications to be sufficient.
There is no question that on two different issues the same person can make decisions on an objective basis. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. It has nothing to do with the Refugee Appeal Division that the member refers to, which was not part of his question to the minister. Not only are these positions held by this government, but they are approved by the Federal Court as well.