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Refugee groups respond to Jason Kenney's letter to Xtra

Refugee groups respond to Jason Kenney's letter to Xtra

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'It's a concern': Canadian Council of Refugees
Refugee groups have taken issue with assertions made by Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney in an open letter to Xtra about a story on proposed government changes to regulations concerning refugee settlement in Canada.
 
In his letter of Feb 4 Kenney cites the huge backlog that led to “unacceptable wait times,” noting that a handful of sponsorship groups have flooded the system beyond its capacity to process requests.
 
What Kenney left out is a reference to the auditor general’s March 2009 report on the backlog, which says the problem stems in large part from the refusal of the Conservative government to fill vacancies on the Immigration and Refugee Board during its first three years in office.
 
Kenney states that the system has been open to abuse, and sponsorships made by groups of five people (the G5 category) are used to sponsor relatives who aren’t in need of refugee protections.
 
“This is something that the government has been constantly accusing private sponsors generally of doing, and our response has always been that just because you have a family member in Canada doesn’t mean that you’re not a refugee,” says Janet Dench of the Canadian Council of Refugees.
 
She says that if a Canadian has a family member in a refugee situation, private sponsorship is the only route to take.
 
“There’s no point doing it if you don’t meet the refugee definition or are nowhere near the refugee definition because you won’t be accepted,” Dench says. “If he is saying that there are people putting in their private sponsorship applications who in no way meet the refugee definition, then maybe it’s a question of education that is needed.
 
“I don’t see how you could call that abuse, because it wouldn’t do you any good whatsoever,” she says.
 
Chris Morrissey, of the Rainbow Refugee Committee, says she is astounded that abuse is cited for changing the G5 process.
 
“Ultimately, every application for sponsorship must be approved by a visa office at a Canadian embassy or consulate,” she says. “I imagine that these applications are screened out. As far as I know there are no stats available indicating how widespread the practice is.”
 
Kenney’s office did not respond to several of Xtra’s requests for documentation or case numbers of cases in which such abuse has occurred.
 
In his letter to Xtra, Kenney also took issue with concerns raised about visa officers possibly discriminating against queer applicants.
 
“This is insulting to the professionalism and impartiality of Canada’s highly trained visa officers, not to mention the quality assurance and oversight that ensures decisions are reasonable and conform to Canadian law, which does not discriminate between applicants on the basis of sexual orientation,” Kenney wrote.
 
Nevertheless, Morrissey says that concerns exist, whether the homophobia is real or perceived.
 
“While Citizenship and Immigration has the ability to ensure that visa officers are trained and understand the realities of and the way to approach the process, CIC has no ability to ensure that UNHCR officials have such training,” Morrissey says. “In fact, individuals have shared with us how some of them have been put in danger by a UNHCR official. It is recognized by workers on the ground that they have not been adequately trained.”
 
Dench is also concerned about the overall message Kenney sends in his response by declaring that any suggestions the changes will affect refugees are untrue.
 
“His department has just published a notice for a proposed change in which they invite comments,” Dench says. “Surely you invite comments because you want to know what the impacts will be. It’s a little bit of a concern for a group like ours who put in comments because we thought it would hurt some refugees – not intentionally, but that would be the impact. For him to say that it’s untrue begs the question, Why are you asking for people’s opinion if you know what the answer is?”
 
 
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Comments

Jason Kenney Rocks!
Jason Kenney is the BEST immigration minister Canada has ever had. Canadians now have a government that is doing almost exactly what the vast majority of us demand. The fact that a bunch of sad old socialist dinosaurs at Pink Triangle Press are so angry that their mail-order third-world boyfriends can no longer collect life-long welfare/disability at taxpayer's expense proves how out of touch from the 21st century they are.
It's very simple what has to be done....
We've all got to work hard at getting the Tories out of office, ASAP, before things become completely crappy and Canad's no more the a 51st state of the USA.
bull shit
I've worked for Citizenship and Immigration and the past and while the people I worked with weren't visa officers per se they were immigration officers who did determine the fate of refugees who arrived at our borders undocumented, which is a perfectly valid way of applying for refugee status in Canada, it is not illegal nor is line jumping as there is no line for refugees, and it is the way that the vast majority of refugees arrive here since most legitimate refugees cannot make it to a safe third country where there may or may not be a Canadian refugee office, especially if they are LGBT and would also be in danger at such refugee camps. Not all of the Immigration officers I worked with back then where anti-LGBT bigots but there were certainly enough of them to make it so I did not want to work there long term. Plus Harper has appointed to the refugee board an anti-LGBT activist, not just a bigot but someone who actively worked to make our lives harder or worse. We have already heard of far too many cases where a gay refugee was denied status because the Immigration officer didn't consider them "gay enough" to be at risk in their home country, or claimed that they could be safe by remaining closeted, at the same time they would never tell a refugee fleeing religious persecution that they'd be safe if only they pretended to be of the dominant religion, others have been denied refugee status by the claim that they had a safe area in their home country they could've fled to and then when sent back were found murdered a short time later in the alleged safe area. One of the biggest problems with our refugee system is bigoted, anti-LGBT CIC/IRB employees. Denying its a problem at all is totally disgraceful especially when there is so much evidence of their bigotry out there for all to see who will look.
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