Press Release – For Immediate Release
Bill C-31 putting LGBTQ refugees’ lives at risk.
Montréal, le mardi 27 mars 2012 – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Queer (LGBTQ) racialized and ethnic organisations in Québec join a growing number of organisations including the Canadian Council for Refugees, Amnesty International, Canadian Civil Liberties Association, South Asian Women’s Community Centre, Solidarity Across Borders, the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers and Human Rights Watch, in opposing Bill C-31, an omnibus refugee reform bill presented by the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, Jason Kenney. Bill C-31 places refugee lives at risk and therefore must be withdrawn. The 3 major aspects of Bill C-31 that are the most concerning are:
1- The designation of “safe countries”: those refugees who are identified as coming from a “safe country” would have their refugee claim fast tracked, with no access to appeal. One Minister would have the sole discretion to designate these “safe countries” without consultation. For LGBTQ refugees, this policy would have grave consequences. While there has been an increase in the inclusions of LGBTQ specific human rights legislation across the globe, this legislation does not, in and of itself, fully protect all LGBTQ individuals in any given country. Similar to (and sometime overlapping with), gender-based persecution, the violence and persecution facing LGBTQ refugees are oftentimes from powerful individuals and groups they meet in their everyday lives. This includes friends, family members, work colleagues, etc. Oftentimes, state protection is not possible, due to systemic forms of homophobia and transphobia within police and judiciary institutions. Every refugee claim based on sexual orientation must be context-specific and take into consideration a complex set of factors in order to ascertain whether a claimant is facing persecution due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.
2- Bill C-31 will result in the increased use of detention for refugees: one Minister has the power to identify “irregular arrivals” (when 2 or more refugees from the same country arrive together) and place these refugees into mandatory detention for a minimum of one year, without the right to have their case reviewed by the Immigration and Refugee Board. Children 16 and over would also be detained. Children under 16 would be forced to choose between being detained with their parents or being put into state care. Every group of “irregular arrivals” could include LGBTQ people. Those seeking asylum based on their sexual orientation or gender identity must repeatedly explain why they are seeking refugee status to a variety of immigration officials. Therefore, LGBTQ refugees are compelled to continuously ‘out’ themselves to while in detention, increasing their exposure to homophobia and transphobia.
3- The “cessation clause” results in accepted refugees who become permanent residents having their status taken away if the government deems that they are no longer in need of protection. This would impact permanent residents regardless of how long they have been living in Canada. For LGBTQ refugees, the possibility that the government could identify their country of origin as now “safe” from persecution based on sexual orientation and gender identity is very real.
In addition to contravening the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Canada’s international obligations with respect to refugee protection (the Geneva Convention), Bill C-11 does not respect the International Convention on the Rights of the Child.
For more information about Bill C-31, please go to http://ccrweb.ca/en/refugee-reform
This press release is presented on behalf of:
Action LGBTQ with Immigrants and Refugees (AGIR)
Au-delà de l’Arc-en-ciel (ADA)
Conseil Québécois des Gais et Lesbiennes (CQGL)
Gay and Lesbian Asians of Montréal (GLAM)
Media Contact – English: Ed Lee 514-805-9643
One page summary from CCR (pdf)
What You Can Do from CCR (ppt)
Detaining Refugee Children (video)