May 13, 2011
Media Release - The Refugee Convention and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms do not Prevent Canada From Adopting a More Rational Refugee Policy
Helping Refugees While Protecting Canadian Sovereignty
Calgary – The Frontier Center for Public Policy released today The Refugee Convention and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms do not prevent Canada from adopting a more rational refugee policy, a study authored by lawyer and dedicated human rights defender John Carpay.
Carpay argues that the conventional wisdom in the implementation of refugee rules in Canada is wrong, and helps neither the genuine refugees it intends to serve nor the Canadian public who funds it. “When economic migrants succeed in obtaining permanent residency in Canada by abusing the refugee-claims system,” Carpay writes, “it undermines respect for the rule of law, reduces public support for assisting real refugees and is grossly unfair to the millions of Canadians who immigrated here while respecting and complying with the law.”
The study discusses the Refugee Convention and Supreme Court of Canada jurisprudence pertaining to the rights of refugees and shows that the federal government can, in fact, implement sensible reforms to Canada’s immigration and refugee policies while also complying with the Charter and with the Refugee Convention. The key lies in effectively differentiating between genuine refugees and those who seek to take advantage of our generous laws.
Under the Convention, for example, contrary to what many seem to argue without substance, Canada’s obligations are limited to not returning a refugee to the place where she or he faces persecution. The Refugee Convention does not require Canada to provide exhaustive appeals to every refugee claimant nor does it require Canada to house, clothe, feed and care for tens of thousands of refugee claimants who continue to reside in Canada while applying for refugee status and exhausting all of their appeals. The Convention does not prevent Canada from quickly deporting non-citizens whose refugee claims clearly lack merit. The Convention does not prevent Canada from granting temporary protection status to refugees and returning them to their country of origin when circumstances there have changed. The Convention provides rights to those who are found to be refugees, and it does not provide rights to refugee claimants. Under the Refugee Convention, Contracting States have full discretion to set up their own systems and procedures for determining which refugee claims are valid and which are not.
“Canada needs to develop public policies that address the goals of helping real refugees while also deterring those who would make fraudulent claims,” says Carpay. To this effect he suggests looking to the example of some of Canada’s European allies who possess similar legal and constitutional traditions and who are also signatories to the same Refugee Convention.
Neither the Charter nor the Refugee Convention prevents Canada from adopting policies now in force in European Union (EU) nations:
• Safe Country of Origin: Refugee claims from a citizen of a country considered safe are “manifestly unfounded” and will only be considered if there are unusual circumstances.
• Safe Third Country: A refugee claimant arriving from another European Union country or from a signatory country of the Refugee Convention is not entitled to claim asylum because he or she is coming from a safe third country.
• Frivolous Claims: Claims are rejected as “manifestly unfounded” when the claimants have provided no obvious or credible reasons for fearing persecution, and their story contains inconsistencies and contradictions.
• Abusive Claims: These are claims submitted by persons who arrive without documents, use false documents or do not co-operate with officials. Their claims are also considered “manifestly unfounded” and are dealt with by accelerated procedures.
• Removal under Appeal: Most EU countries do not allow a refugee claimant’s appeal of an unfavourable ruling to lift or suspend an order for that refugee claimant’s removal.
• Readmission Agreements: These are formal bilateral agreements signed with countries that agree to take back rejected asylum-seekers, making it easy to remove them. In some cases, the agreement has been negotiated on the understanding that development aid is conditional upon the agreement being signed and adhered to.
• Restricted Social Welfare and Benefits: Most EU countries restrict the movement of asylum-seekers and provide lowerrates of welfare and other social benefits.
Agents of Persecution: Germany, France and Sweden interpret the Refugee Convention as applying only to persecution by state authorities, not to persecution in a general sense.
• Temporary Protection Status: A number of EU countries grant temporary protection status to refugee claimants until circumstances in their country of origin have changed. Canada can implement each and every one of these reforms without violating the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms or the Refugee Convention.
Download a copy of Helping Refugees While Protecting Canadian Sovereignty HERE.
For more information and to arrange an interview with the study's author, media (only) should contact:
Marco Navarro-Genie, Ph.D.
Director of Research
The Frontier Centre for Public Policy
is an independent public policy think tank whose mission is "to broaden the debate on our future through public policy research and education and to explore positive changes within our public institutions that support economic growth and opportunity."