Mr. Kenney said the changes, once implemented, will cut the time it takes for a refugee claimant to get a hearing to two months from the current 19 and reduce to about two years from the average 4½ years the time it takes to evict a rejected applicant.
A total of $1.6-million of the new money has been earmarked for clearing the backlog of 60,000 asylum seekers.
The shorter timelines would be achieved by allowing trained public servants to make the first call on a refugee claim and limiting avenues of appeal currently open to those whose claims are rejected.
Mr. Kenney said the new limits on appeals are offset by the government's decision to create a new refugee appeal division, which would be charged with reviewing the first-level decision within four months and allowing new evidence to be submitted. Government appointees would staff the division.
One measure that already has refugee advocates, as well as some opposition politicians on high alert, would allow the immigration minister to designate a list of "safe" countries of origin.
Refugee claimants from those "safe" countries would not have the right to appeal to the new division. Their only recourse would be the Federal Court of Canada.
Here is Martin Collacott's response in the National Post to the announced proposals.
The new proposals include major changes to how refugee claims will be handled. One controversial feature is that public servants will conduct an initial information-gathering interview with asylum seekers and will also preside over the actual hearings of cases in the Refugee Protection Division of the Immigration and Refugee Board. In the past, such hearings were conducted by Governor-in-Council appointees, many of whom were drawn from the ranks of immigration activists.
As the Auditor General of Canada has pointed out, the results of the old system could be wildly inconsistent. In one report the A-G noted that the approval rate for people from one particular country was 4% at one regional IRB regional boards, but 49%and 82%at others. While refugee activists argue that the use of public servants in such roles leaves open the possibility of political interference in the decision-making process, the fact is that such a system is used effectively in many other countries including Britain, France, Australia and the United States. Claimants whose cases are rejected will be able to lodge appeals with a new Refugee Appeals Division in the IRB composed of completely independent Government-in Council appointees or ask for a review by the Federal Court.
Perhaps the most contentious of Kenney's proposals will be that Canada designates safe countries of origin. Many other countries do this in order to avoid having their systems clogged with large numbers of claims by people from countries with democratic governments and good human rights records. We made provision to establish such a list in the late 1980s but the government yielded to pressure from refugee lobbyists and dropped the idea.
And as is should be expected the rent seekers are "concerned".
Janet Dench, executive director of the Montreal-based Canadian Council for Refugees, says she is already hearing complaints from lawyers that the 60-day limit is unworkable, given the need to collect material to document specific cases of alleged persecution and also obtain credible research on the state of human rights in any given country.
If it has immigration lawyers worried then it must be a good thing. Look, who are these people kidding? The more time they spend handling a case the more billable hours they collect. So, of course a reduction in time for a refugee claimant to get a hearing bothers them. Of course restricting the avenues for appeals bothers them. It means less work them. As for the welfare of the refugee claimant? Spare me! They know very well that most refugees are bogus and if these reforms discourage people from filing bogus refugee claims it means a diminished base of clients. With lawyers it's always about money.
Will these reforms do the trick? I don't know. When it comes to the government it's always wait and see. However the reforms should have went even further and addressed the Singh decision. Lorrie Golstein writes in the Edmonton Sun:
In fairness, Kenney is trying to clean up a mess he inherited and no political party is prepared to do what’s necessary.
First, the government would invoke the Constitution’s notwithstanding clause and revoke the Supreme Court of Canada’s 1985 Singh decision. Second, it would move from the selective detention of refugee claimants (about 20%) to systematic detention, until the veracity of claims could be determined.
Canada’s refugee system fell apart following the Supreme Court’s Singh decision, which basically extended the protection of the Charter of Rights to anyone who could get a foot on Canadian soil.
That has led to today’s massive backlog of 60,000 claimants. It now takes an average 19 months just to get an initial hearing, 41/2 years to determine a bogus claim.
We’ve lost track of 38,000 failed claimants ordered deported — some criminals and terrorists.
Last year, 33,000 people made refugee claims. Almost 60% will be rejected. Each failed claimant costs Canadians $50,000 in health and social service expenses. Billions are being wasted while genuine refugees face years of uncertainty in the system.
Revoking Singh and rebuilding the refugee process — still with safeguards, just not to the point of absurdity — is step one.
It's the Singh decision stupid! It's THE major cause undermining the integrity of Canada's refugee system.
Lorrie Golstein continues and says we should detain all refugees until their identities can be verified and their status determined. I agree with him on the point that those who are genuine would not be bothered by this procedure considering what horror they must have experienced. Bogus claimants would be annoyed by the inconvenience and could be discouraged from filing a claim in the first place. It will also make deportations of failed claims more efficient since they would be prevented from disappering by going underground or sneaking into the United States.