Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of December 11, 2006
Canada's bishops seek justice for refugees
"We become complicit in a bureaucratized evil."
By DEBORAH GYAPONG
Canadian Catholic News
The Canadian government must provide more justice for refugees and immigrants who want to enter the country, say Canada's Catholic bishops.
The bishops, in a submission to the House of Commons immigration committee, urged the Canadian government to immediately implement a fair, transparent refugee appeal process for failed refugee claimants.
They also want Canada to abrogate its Safe Third Country Agreement with the United States.
The 2002 Safe Third Country Agreement stipulates that refugees must seek asylum in whichever of the two countries they reach first. This stops refugees who go to the United States first from applying for refugee status under the more accommodating procedures in Canada.
Archbishop Brendan O'Brien of St. John's, Nfld., told the Commons committee the agreement has "left in the hands of a foreign government the determination of the final disposition of people that we deny refugee status."
"So when Canada shuts the door on people who might, but for the Safe Third, have bona fide refugee claims, we become complicit in a bureaucratized evil," O'Brien said.
O'Brien also objected to the ways refugee claimants are being rejected in the United States on the grounds of "material support for terrorist groups" when some of that support is under duress.
MPs from all political parties on the Commons immigration committee welcomed the bishops' recommendations.
Gatineau Archbishop Roger Ebacher said serious reform is "essential" to protect human dignity. Two children from his diocese were deported to Rwanda with their father, who is now in detention in that country.
"Canada, as you know, has a moratorium on deportations to Rwanda: for good reason," he said. "Nevertheless, one official in the department - not a judge, not a court of law - had the authority to order this family's removal without any possibility of appeal."
Ebacher said bishops witnessed suffering every day in their dioceses because of government treatment of refugees.
Such treatment is caused by:
- A failure to implement the appeals process.
- The impoverishment of agricultural workers, immigrants and refugees through lack of support services and recognition of foreign accreditation.
The vulnerability of migrant women to economic exploitation and violence.
- The "abomination" of human trafficking as "women and children are reduced to sex slaves."
"You have seen how measures that are intended to keep Canadians secure against terrorism in fact make nonsense of deep democratic values like respect for human rights, the rule of law and the intrinsic worth of each person," Ebacher said. The bishops also asked the federal government to eliminate obstacles to family reunification.
The text of the bishops' presentation and their January pastoral letter, We Are Aliens and Transients Before the Lord our God, are available through the website of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops at www.cccb.ca.