Arghavan Gerami, Refugee Lawyers, and Law Students Descended On Parliament Hill To Advocate Important Changes To Refugee Policies
On February 26, 2018, the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers organized “LobbyCon” in Ottawa, training law students with the supervision of refugee lawyers, including our own Arghavan Gerami, to meet with Canadian Members of Parliament in Ottawa and advocate important changes to Canada’s refugee policy.
This year, the focus was on two issues: unfair barriers to accessing permanent residency on humanitarian and compassionate (H&C) grounds and the lack of oversight for the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA).
The availability of permanent residency on H&C grounds under section 25 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act is restricted in a number of cases. For example, refugee claimants are barred from making a refugee claim at the same time as an application for permanent residency on H&C grounds, and if their refugee claim is rejected, they are barred from applying for permanent residency on H&C grounds for one year from the date their claim was refused.
This means refugee claimants who may not have met the threshold of risk and persecution but had remained in Canada for years for the refugee determination process will not be able to present evidence that they have established themselves in Canada, that they will suffer tremendous hardship to return to their country and that it is in the best interest of their child/children to remain in Canada.
The gap created has a very inhumane impact on these individuals and also results in a loss to Canada. These individuals who have contributed to Canada and Canadian economy should have an opportunity to file a humanitarian and compassionate permanent residency application before they face removal from Canada.
Secondly, the law students and lawyers lobbied MPs concerning the lack of CBSA oversight. The CBSA is the enforcement body for immigration matters; CBSA officers determine the eligibility of individuals apply for refugee status at the border and enforce immigration detention, among other law enforcement responsibilities. The CBSA is the only major law enforcement agency in Canada that is not currently subject to any form of oversight or review. At LobbyCon, CARL members recommended the creation of an oversight body for the CBSA not solely driven by complaints but with the power to initiate its own reviews and investigations. This will allow for greater transparency and accountability and will minimize the power imbalance and potential for abuse of vulnerable individuals.