I would prefer to be thinking and writing about an important issue such as the ongoing Conservative Party of Canada Leadership Race. That story, after all is a genuinely “good news” story for Canadians.
Talking about “safe-third-countries” has become the elephant in the room a a simple enough three word epithet that becomes an easy story for uninformed media “hacks” and (sadly) one story that is quite capable of sucking all the oxygen out of the room.
It’s odd/ironic that when the alleged journalists decide to leap into the realm of refugees, the media scampers off to the low hanging fruit: the lawyers. Refugee and immigration law and immigrant settlement are, after all a multi-billion dollar industry in Canada. One refugee lawyer whom I consider a friend jokingly tells that refugee and immigration case load in Canada is responsible for the sale of more Mercedes Benz and other (insert your favorite name) exotic automobiles and the sale of more great vacation get-away purchases than any amount of dealer incentive programs or glossy magazine advertisements.
It is testimony to Canada’s health care and education systems that Canada has regularly proved to be the ideal “go-to” destination for global migrants. It may be rightly argued (by some/many) that the appeal of our health care and education systems has ultimately also led to the constantly deteriorating condition of health care and education inside of Canada. It may well prove something I learned years ago: you can only take so much water out of a well.
Immigrant or Refugee?
Let’s set the vocabulary straight. Immigrants and refugees are both names given to individuals that are migrating (moving from one country to another).
I spent 8 years adjudicating refugee claims for the Immigration and Refugee Board (the IRB). During my time at the IRB,( modestly) the statistics verify that I constantly finalized many more refugee cases than 96% of my colleagues –other decision makers. There was no reckless quest for high completion rates in my case as I also was regularly among the IRB’s decision makers who’s cases were least likely to be over turned on appeal at the Federal Court. For the sake of context, I put those tow facts out there to consider as you read my thoughts and logic on “safe third countries”.
Safe Third Country and the “Well Founded Fear” Test.
Although both immigrants and refugees are people on the move (migrants) major differences exist between the two groups. While immigrants are folks deciding to improve their lives by migration into another country for better opportunities and better life-style; a refugee is NOT migrating by choice. He/she(a refugee) are individual s who is uprooting themselves as a result of (a) a well founded fear of persecution based on the grounds set out in the Geneva Convention on Refugees (b) evidenced proof that one’s own nation of citizenship is either unable or unwilling to afford protection or (c) a similar individual who has a genuine fear resulting from evidenced national history of torture for the same set of parameters set out in the “Geneva Convention”.
For clarity: the “Geneva Convention” has been ratified by over 150 countries world-wide. Canada is among those ratifying nations and, as made a commitment to provide asylum (protection) to legitimate refugees. A refugee need only establish that there is something more than a “mere possibility” that he/she would be persecuted in their own nation for any of the identified refugee causes. Thus, it is not any more an expectation that a genuine refugee needs to prove that they were tortured directly in order to succeed in establishing his/her refugee claim in Canada.
The “Geneva Convention” (The United Nations High Commission on Refugees – the UNHCR) was enacted in 1951 and has ratified several times since that date as additional countries have signed on or adopted commitments to protect refugees. Among the latter iterations was an addendum on “torture”.
A simple way to sort out the migration causes in layman’s terms is to equate someone moving from one house to another. While an “immigrant” makes a conscious decision to move to a newer/bigger home; a refugee has no choice since his/her home is afire. Thus, an economic migrant is not a refugee.
To assure calculated influx of newcomers to Canada, governments have determined that the country can efficiently assimilate about 300,000 persons per year from the two streams (immigration AND refugees).Obviously, by increasing the numbers of one group, there will be a correlated temporary decrease in the other: To wit: more refugees will result in lower immigration quotas.
The UNHCR is clear as to what/who is a refugee. One needs to establish a “well founded fear of persecution resulting from race, religion or country of origin; freedom to practice their religion; similar fears based on political or personal beliefs or lifestyles.
The process of applying for permission to immigrate to Canada is lengthy and often time consuming as potential immigrants are evaluated in order to assure viability of success in Canada and to assure that an immigrant will not become a financial burden on the entire country. On the other hand, while refugees are vetted (in some fashion) to attempt to keep out those who would do harm to Canada or its citizens; the refugee is understandably a faster pathway into Canada and one without such things as viability tests.
Referring (again) to the analogy of escaping a burning house, expedience in rendering help is a major consideration. Greater due-diligence is obviously made on immigrant files than on refugee files. Similarly, a large amount of tax-money is committed to assist the refugee with everything from housing, to health care, education and “settlement”.
The Test Remains: Is the Refugee Claim Well-Founded
The concept of safe-third-countries forms an extremely significant part of the “well-founded” test as is applied to refugee claims. A person escaping a burning house exhibits his/her “well-founded fear” by seeking out safety (asylum) at the first available opportunity. One does not exhibit genuine or well-founded fear by shunning the first opportunity in another country such as the USA and go about “shopping” for a sweeter deal in another country (such as Canada.
To the critical thinker, the longer an “alleged” refugee sojourned or dwelled in the USA without making reasonable effort to normalize his/her refugee status in the USA and failing to establish a refugee claim in the USA calls into question the credibility of refugee claimant’s attempts to establish that his/her refugee claim in Canada is well-founded and genuine.
Failure to establish a legitimate refugee/asylum claim in the USA creates a situation where such an individual is inside a country that accepts refugee (since 1951 as does Canada) and places such individuals at risk of deportation as an illegal alien in the USA and forced return to the country they alleged to fear. Such delay not only undermines the credibility of the refugee claim in Canada but runs afoul of the Geneva Convention which happens to form the basis of all refugee claims in Canada. Though the “safe-third-country “rule was adopted by Canada about ten years ago, it is a part of the original text of the 1951 Convention on Refugees. Article Seven (2) of the “Convention” goes much further in establishing a three (3) year boundary or time limit after which even an illegal alien cannot be denied refugee protection.
Where I still on the “bench” and deciding refugee claims made by the current influx of migrants wandering into Manitoba or Quebec across snowy fields; my first question would have nothing to do with Donald Trump’s roundup of illegal’s involved in criminal and gang activities. My question would require compelling explanation of how long the individual had been inside the USA prior to his/her journey into Canada and why that individual failed or delayed making an asylum claim in the USA.
I cannot understand why Canadian media outlets intentionally obfuscate facts concerning matters of citizenship. Citizenship and its various rights are at the heart of the freedoms (such as freedom of press) and ought not to be dealt with in hap–hazard and lazy fashion as is regularly the case of our “main-stream-media” which is too quickly becoming the primary outlet for “fake news”.
Canadians have traditionally proved themselves as generous and compassionate. Those attributes are not at test. What is at test are claims for refugee protection and it is incumbent on refugee claimants to establish their own credibility and persuade the IRB that they are not cue-jumpers trying to push their way to the front of the immigration cue, gain wonderful financial assistance and find a permanent home in one of this world’s truly great countries.
Since President is rounding up “criminal elements” involved in criminal activity in the USA and these happy wanderers are turning up at border points in Manitoba and Quebec, is there (perhaps) another reason they decided to leave the USA? Yes, I am entirely happy that I am no longer testing credibility and deciding Convention Refugee cases at the IRB. I only hope that the present decision makers (at the IRB) do not fall prey to the fake news served up regularly by our national news organizations and their quite lazy reporting staffs. Alas, there are much more important matters at hand than trying to deal with (perhaps) bogus refugee claimants who shall each get their day in the court while enjoying a happily subsidized sojourn in Canada.
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