JOINT PRESS RELEASE: Canadian Lawyers Say New Refugee System Deeply Flawed

December 15, 2013

JOINT PRESS RELEASE: Canadian Lawyers Say New Refugee System Deeply Flawed

For Immediate Release | December 15, 2013

December 15, 2012, the federal government ushered in sweeping changes to Canada’s refugee system. One year on, refugee lawyers across Canada say that these changes have created a manifestly unfair system for deciding refugee claims, and point to serious and systemic flaws with the new regime which is being challenged by refugee lawyers across Canada.

"Canada's new refugee regime is deeply flawed", said Lorne Waldman, President of the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers (CARL). "It sacrifices fairness on the altar of expediency."

"The new system draws arbitrary distinctions between refugee claimants. Arbitrariness is not balance. Some people wait years to be heard, while others are forced to proceed within 30, 45 or 60 days. Some get an impartial decision-maker, while others get one known to reject every case." said Raoul Boulakia, of the Refugee Lawyers Association (RLA).

"The new system dehumanizes people seeking legitimate protection" said the executive of the Association des avocats et avocates en droit de l'immigration du Québec (AQAADI).

Key problems with the new regime include:

  • Short timelines do not offer claimants sufficient time to prepare for their hearings, thus depriving them of fair and reasonable opportunity to establish their refugee claims. This is particularly damaging for vulnerable claimants, such as survivors of torture, survivors of gender-based violence, and people with health problems or disabilities.
  • Arbitrary distinctions between refugee claimants based on their country of origin and mode of arrival into Canada, creating a two-tiered system that deprives certain claimants of essential legal and procedural protections for no principled reason.
  • Expansive powers to the Minister of Public Safety and the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, rendering the refugee determination system more adversarial.
  • Severely curtails rights of appeal for certain refugee claimants, based solely on their country of origin or mode of arrival in Canada. The new refugee Appeal division is limiting its jurisdiction by using a narrow interpretation of its powers.
  • Restrictions on important safety nets for people many of whom have survived horrific trauma, from having their situations adequately assessed in Canada.

The situation of refugee claimants is complex and involves life and death decisions. It is therefore essential that refugee claimants be represented by a qualified lawyer that specializes in refugee law. We are very concerned with continued under-funding of Legal Aid for refugees.

For more information contact:

Claudia Andrea Molina, lawyer Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers: 514-657-2189

Stéphanie Valois, lawyer Association des avocats et avocates en droit de l'immigration du Québec: 514-879-1432

Raoul Boulakia, lawyer Refugee Lawyers Association: 416-963-4488