Minister might scrap refugee appeal law

Posted by admin on Mar 10th, 2005

Minister might scrap refugee appeal law. Parliament had adopted legislation to ensure everyone received fair trial. MICHELLE LALONDE The Gazette

Immigration lawyers and advocates in Montreal expressed outrage yesterday at federal Immigration Minister Joe Volpe’s comments he might scrap a promised refugee appeal process already approved by Parliament. In 2000, Parliament passed a law reducing the number of commissioners hearing refugee claims to one from two and requiring the federal government to create an appeals division to ensure refugees get a fair hearing.

No such appeal process now exists. Volpe indicated Tuesday the government might try to change the law to scrap the appeal division, as no new funds have been made
available to his department to create it.

“Our members are just livid over those statements,” said Patrice Brunet, president of the Quebec Immigration Lawyers Association. “It doesn’t make sense to have a single (person) make a decision on someone’s life … and not have a credible appeal system if that decision is wrong.”

Refugee claimants who are refused status by the Immigration and Refugee Board can sometimes appeal to Federal Court, but Brunet noted only about 10 per cent of
appellants are granted permission to go forward – and only if there is a mistake in law. No appeal judge reviews the entire case for errors.

“The fact the appeal mechanism was passed by Parliament and never enacted means the minister is acting with disregard not only for refugee rights but for Canadian democracy,” said Rick Goldman of the Table de Concertation des organismes au service aux personnes refugiees et immigrantes.

In Ottawa, opposition critics vowed to press the government to fulfill its promise to institute the appeals division, saying it can’t abandon something adopted by
Parliament. “We will fight tooth and nail,” Bloc Quebecois MP Meili Faille said.

In a statement in the House of Commons, Faille called on Volpe to announce plans to institute the appeals division as promised.

Conservative MP Diane Ablonczy said the government has an obligation to respect legislation adopted by Parliament.

“The most shocking element is that a minister of the Crown is saying the law of the land is meaningless. Why do we bother to pass laws if they don’t mean anything? Can
Joe Citizen equally disregard the law?”

ELIZABETH THOMPSON of the gazette ottawa bureau contributed to this report

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