Bill C-97 – Changes to IRPA

CONCERNS REGARDING PROPOSED CHANGES IN BILL C-97

Dear Sir or Madam:

On behalf of residents and organizations in Manitoba who deal directly with immigrants and refugees, we have serious concerns regarding the amendments proposed in Bill C-97. The focus of the comments below relate to the changes to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (hereinafter IRPA) specifically. On a procedural note, however, we have serious concerns with the way that the Liberal Government is pushing for significant changes to Canadian laws without proper parliamentary debate.

Genuine Refugees in Manitoba

The vast majority of refugee claimants in Manitoba enter our jurisdiction after they have started an asylum claim in the United States. These claimants are from many countries, including Somalia, Djibouti, Nigeria, Venezuela, the Democratic Republic of Congo. Based on our collective experience, most of these claimants are, in fact, successful with their claims at the Immigration and Refugee Board (hereinafter “IRB”) and they are found to be genuine refugees. The highly skilled adjudicators at the IRB consider the claims based on sections 96 and 97 of IRPA. In addition, they assess the credibility of the claimants and they consider evidence from the United States and any other country where they have sought protection.

The proposed changes to Section 101.1 of IRPA will significant affect many claimants in Manitoba. Claimants who have made a claim for refugee protection in the United States and any of the Five Eyes countries will not be eligible to have their refugee claims heard at the IRB. Instead, Bill C-97 proposes that these individuals will have a risk assessment done as part of a Pre-Removal Risk Assessment (PRRA).

We have concerns that the proposed changes will affect genuine refugees who are seeking the protection of Canada, in accordance with Canadian laws and our international obligations.

The Proposed Changes May be Unconstitutional

We have concerns that banning refugee claimants from the tribunal and, instead, having their risk assessment done by a PRRA Officer is unconstitutional and a breach of Charter Rights. As noted by the Supreme Court of Canada in the Singh decision, the previous system that involved public servants making refugee decisions was unconstitutional; hence, the creation of the IRB.

We have concerns that many claimants in Manitoba will be in long-term limbo. Foreign nationals who are coming from so-called “moratorium countries” may be banned from filing a PRRA application. If they are banned from both the tribunal as well as the PRRA application, they will be living in Manitoba in limbo. They cannot be removed to their home countries and they cannot easily regularize their status. These individuals may be forced to make applications based on humanitarian and compassionate circumstances per Section 25 of IRPA. Currently, the processing time for that application is 30 months and these people will be long-term limbo during this time.

Potential Impact on Mental Health

We have concerns that the mental health of refugee claimants is not being sufficiently considered. All of us seek to provide the necessary support for individuals in Manitoba who are coming from countries where they may have experienced trauma, torture or persecution. The IRB has robust measures, including Chairperson’s Guidelines and the Adjudicators receive significant training on dealing with vulnerable persons and individuals who have faced trauma.

We have concerns that the proposed changes to not adequately consider the potential negative impact on the mental health who are coming to Canada seeking protection.

Positive Change

We live in a parliamentary democracy, based on debate and discussion. We have concerns that Bill C-97 has been tabled without due process. We would support changes to IRPA that adequately consider the circumstances of the individuals and the families that we assist on a daily basis.

As Manitobans, we are proud of Canada’s humanitarian tradition and we work hard to build our communities based on diversity and multiculturalism. The refugee determination system in Canada must also reflect our values to properly consider each claim and assess the merits of refugee claimants according to our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

Alastair Clarke – Clarke Immigration Law

Abdikheir Ahmed – Immigration Partnership Winnipeg

Lisa Forbes – Amnesty International Canada

Louise Simbadumwe – Amnesty International Canada

Dorota Blumczynska – Immigrant and Refugee Community of Manitoba (IRCOM)

Dr. Shauna Labman – Assistant Professor of Law, University of Manitoba

Ghezae Hagos – Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council

Bequie Lake – Manitoba Association of Newcomer Serving Organizations

Carol Reimer (IRCOM)

Yahya Samatar – Former Refugee

Razak Iyal – Former Refugee