Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 21, 2005
Bishops call for appeals
CCCB says ruling puts refugees at risk
By DEBORAH GYAPONG
Canadian Catholic News
The federal government is putting refugees in jeopardy by refusing to allow them to appeal rulings that they should be deported, says a spokesman for the Canadian bishops.
"We believe that the right to an appeal process is a fundamental question of human rights to be recognized for every person," Gatineau Archbishop Roger Ebacher wrote in a Nov. 8 letter to Citizen and Immigration Minister Joseph Volpe.
"Faced with a situation in which someone, if deported, risks death, torture or extreme cruelty, human conscience must guide our decisions and action toward Canada's treatment of foreigners, and in particular of refugees."
Ebacher is chairman of the human rights committee of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Present measures for "pre-removal risk assessment" or the granting of permanent residence status on humanitarian grounds are no substitute for the appeal proceedings that were supposed to have been guaranteed in the 2001 Immigration Act, the bishop said in his letter.
Ebacher said welcoming and protecting refugees is a humanitarian duty, as well as a requirement under international law.
Twice this year an ecumenical petition calling for a refugee appeal process and signed by 24,000 people was presented to Parliament, he noted.
Volpe, however, defended his decision when journalists put him on the hot seat in a media scrum Nov. 15.
"I'm on the record as saying that I'm focussing on ensuring that the system gets the issues right the first time," Volpe said. "We're building a cadre of people who are expert, competent and knowledgeable in the area of refugees and refugee procurement issues."
"We're looking at building efficiencies, clearing out the backlog and ensuring that we land as many bonafide refugee asylum seekers as we can. In fact last year we had an increase over the previous year. So I think we're on the right track and this wouldn't be a time to introduce a refugee appeal division."
Volpe said he wasn't worried about mistakes, because failed asylum seekers could go to the federal court, or appeal on compassionate or humanitarian grounds.
Ebacher's letter anticipated these arguments. He wrote that present measures for "pre-removal risk assessment" or the granting of permanent residence status on humanitarian grounds are no substitute for the appeal proceedings that were supposed to have been guaranteed in the 2001 Immigration Act.
For two Catholic parishes in Ottawa, the problem Ebacher's letter raises has a human face. A French and an English parish are sharing the responsibility of providing sanctuary to a 43-year-old woman ordered deported to her native Ivory Coast by a one-man Immigration and Refugee Board.
Maoua Diomande, a convert to the Catholic faith from Islam sought sanctuary through the St. Joseph's Refugee Outreach Committee. She said that in the Ivory Coast, soldiers burst into Diomande's room. She was beaten and raped and fears for her life should she return.
After her 2004 hearing, adjudicator Azhar Ali Khan ruled that she faced no threat in returning to Ivory Coast, according to the Ottawa Citizen. "I find that she has made up the story of her being raped," Khan said.
The Citizen reports Diomande did not have her medical records at the hearing to prove she was raped.
"We didn't undertake this lightly," the coordinator of the immigration committee at St. Joseph's, Pierre Gauthier, told the Citizen. "But in conscience, we could not accept returning Maoua to the Ivory Coast, where her life would clearly be in danger."