By Sukanya Pillay
on March 25, 2013
This morning in Geneva, CCLA addressed State Delegations at a pre-session of the Universal Periodic Review (“UPR”), organized by the organization UPR-Info. CCLA’s intervention was to update States on our concerns about Canada’s ongoing human rights record, in anticipation of Canada’s Second Universal Periodic Review. Canada, like all member States of the United Nations, participates in the Universal Periodic Review process, in which States make recommendations to each other on steps to further adherence to international law commitments, and the State Under Review (in this case, Canada) has the option to “accept” or “reject” recommendations, and to undertake “voluntary commitments”. The purpose of the 2nd UPR of Canada incorporates examining progress on Canada’s commitments made during the first UPR in 2009.
Nathalie Des Rosiers, CCLA General Counsel and Executive Director, addressed the State delegations this morning on behalf of CCLA. She was part of a delegation of Canadian NGOs who took the floor during the Pre-Session this morning.
Later in the day, CCLA participated in a “working lunch” at the Canadian Permanent Mission to the UN, with other Canadian NGOs.
To read CCLA’s statement to the UPR Pre-Session click here: STATEMENT OF CCLA – UPR 2013 Pre-Session
For background information on the upcoming Second UPR of Canada click here: http://ccla.org/2012/10/09/ccla-submits-ngo-report-regarding-2nd-universal-periodic-review-of-canada/. To read a copy of CCLA’s WRITTEN SUBMISSIONS to the UPR Process please click here: click here.
By Noa Mendelsohn Aviv
on March 18, 2013
CCLA welcomes the decision released today by the Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. Pham, affirming the central role that the principle of individualized sentencing should play: that the personal circumstances of an offender are relevant in determining their sentence. The central question on appeal was whether a judge should exercise his or her discretion to take collateral immigration consequences into account in the sentencing process, namely the loss of a right to appeal a deportation order. Under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, a permanent resident sentenced to a term of imprisonment of two years or more loses the right to appeal a removal order issued against him or her.
Mr. Pham, a Vietnamese citizen and permanent resident of Canada, was charged and convicted with unlawfully producing marijuana and possessing it for the purposes of trafficking. At his sentencing hearing, he was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment triggering a loss of appeal rights against a removal order issued against him. Neither the Crown nor Mr. Pham’s counsel had raised this issue before the sentencing judge. On appeal, however, the Crown conceded that it would have agreed to a sentence of two years less one day. Despite this, the majority of the Alberta Court of Appeal denied Mr. Pham’s appeal to have his sentence reduced by one day. The Supreme Court reversed this decision, allowing the appeal and reducing Mr. Pham’s sentence from two years to two years less a day. The Court noted that collateral immigration consequences may be just as relevant in sentencing as the collateral consequences of other legislation or of circumstances specific to the offender.
CCLA appeared before the Court to argue that the collateral immigration consequences of a sentence should be considered at sentencing and that the criminal law should be flexible enough to allow the judiciary to fashion appropriate and individualized responses to criminal conduct on a case-by-case basis. CCLA also argued that the failure to consider the collateral immigration consequences of a sentence for a non-citizen could be a violation of the right to equality under the Charter. The Supreme Court affirmed, similarly, that “if the personal circumstances of the offender are different, different sentences will be justified.”
CCLA thanks Matthew S. Estabrooks and D. Lynne Watt of Gowlings Ottawa for their excellent work in this case.
For the Supreme Court’s decision, click here.
For CCLA’s factum in the case, click here.
By Dora Chan
on March 6, 2013
Hundreds of thousands of Toronto residents pay local taxes and use city services, but have no say in who represents them, because they are not yet Canadian citizens.
Recently, the City of Toronto’s Community Development and Recreation Committee put forward a request to review “the opportunity to have permanent residents in Toronto be given the right to vote in municipal elections.”
Join the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI) and Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office for a panel discussion on the merits of this proposal.
March 20, 2013
10:00 – 11:45 a.m.
Novella Room, Bram & Bluma Appel Salon, Toronto Reference Library
789 Yonge Street, Toronto
• Matthew Mendelsohn, Director, Mowat Centre
• Michael Pal, Research Fellow, Mowat Centre
• Jehad Aliweiwi, Executive Director, Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office
• Nathalie Des Rosiers, General Counsel, Canadian Civil Liberties Association
• Myer Siemiatycki, Professor of Politics and Public Administration, Ryerson University
Register at: votingrightsforpermenantresidents.eventbrite.com
By Dora Chan
on February 27, 2013
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association at McGill Law presents…
Civil Liberties at the Movies: Last Chance, a film by Paul Emile d’Entremont
From the National Film Board: Last Chance tells the stories of 5 asylum seekers who flee their native countries to escape homophobic violence. They face hurdles integrating into Canada, fear deportation and anxiously await a decision that will change their lives forever.
Discussion to follow.
When: Thursday, March 21st, 6-9 pm
Where: Moot Court (Room 100), McGill University Faculty of Law, 3644 Peel Street, Montreal
Our Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/306290992827735/
Link to the trailer: http://www.nfb.ca/film/last-chance
on December 6, 2012
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association denounces the designation of a group of Romanian asylum seekersas “irregular arrivals.” The use of the controversial provision exposes the group of asylum seekers to detention and discrimination in access to citizenship, family reconciliation even in the context where they would obtain refugee status.
Earlier this year, CCLA spoke out to suggest that the provisions ought not to give the Minister the discretion to order “group detention”. Detention of individuals should be based on the dangers that they present and not their mode of arrival to Canada.
CCLA is also concerned that the designation creates a two-tiered system of refugees, delaying the process of integration into Canadian society by denying permanent residency by 5 years even when asylum seekers are found to be legitimate refugees.
“Mass detentions are as objectionable as mass arrests”, says Nathalie Des Rosiers, CCLA’s General Counsel, “the designation punishes victims of smuggling as opposed to smugglers, on the ground that victims will be deterred from coming to Canada. People in desperate situations will not be deterred from attempting to escape, and it is wrong to punish them for attempting to do so. This is not in keeping with our traditional humanitarian commitment to refugees, our international commitments, and our Charter.”
“Canada has been well-served economically by the refugees that it has welcomed in the past, there is no reason to decide the renege this heritage now. It is an insult to people who came because of desperate circumstances, and may have needed help in the beginning of their stay but have greatly contributed to Canada.”
By Noa Mendelsohn Aviv
on November 15, 2012
CCLA made written submissions to the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration concerning Bill C-43. The bill would, in CCLA’s view, violate fundamental principles of justice and the constitutionally protected rights and freedoms of citizens and non-citizens alike. Thus, for example, the bill would facilitate the removal of people from Canada with no appeal and no humanitarian relief, even if the person is a permanent resident with a family who has been here for decades, even since childhood. The bill would also grant the Minister discretion to keep non-citizens out of Canada, with no statutory limits on the Minister’s discretion. These and other concerning changes would violate the rule of law, due process, and the presumption of innocence; curtail the Charter rights of citizens and non-citizens; concentrate certain discretionary powers in the hands of the Minister; and remove key judicial oversight and appeal mechanisms – all with no demonstrable gains for Canada’s safety or security.
To read CCLA’s submissions, click here.
By Dora Chan
on November 9, 2012
On November 20, 2012 from 1pm to 2:30pm, CCLA at YorkU will be hosting a panel discussion on the topic of immigration/refugee rights!
On June 28, 2012, Parliament passed Bill C-31, the new “Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act,” that can detain, hurt and endanger people who come to Canada seeking asylum. Some of the changes proposed by the act are currently in effect and other changes will take effect in mid-December.
In addition to Bill C-31, Bill C-43, also known as “Faster Removal of Foreign Criminals Act,” is currently in its second reading. This act will amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to give the Minister of Immigration, Jason Kenney, more power to decide who can be kept out of, or allowed in, the country.
We need to let the government know that we deserve a balanced and compassionate approach to our immigration and refugee system! We must not forget that we are all immigrants and refugees, or at least their descendants.
WHEN: November 20, 2012 at 1pm to 2:30pm
WHERE: York University, Ross Building Room 146
Sean Rehaag, Assistant Professor at Osgoode Hall Law School
Prof. Rehaag’s research and teachings focus on migration law and human rights, and he is currently teaching Immigration Law, Refugee law and Legal Process. At this event, Mr. Rehaag will be discussing Bill C-31 and its implications on the immigration/refugee system.
Angus Grant, PhD student at Osgoode Hall Law School
Angus Grant is currently writing his PhD on the application of domestic immigration anti-terror provisions to individuals who have taken part in national liberation movements. Angus Grant is also a lawyer at Legal Aid Ontario and a private practitioner with a practice primarily focused on constitutional, immigration and refugee law. Mr. Grant will be discussing Bill C-43 and its implications on the immigration/refugee system.
Noa Mendelsohn Aviv, Director of Canadian Civil Liberties Association’s Equality Program
Noa Mendelsohn Aviv works on such issues as protections for migrants and refugees, healthcare, LGBTQ rights, race and gender issues, mental health and prisons, and generally the rights of persons who are marginalized or disadvantaged. Mrs. Aviv will be discussing the overall anti-refugee, anti-immigrant agenda, and the current refugee healthcare cuts.
Marc Yvan Valade
Mr. Valade has completed a Master’s degree in Public Administration, and specializes in strategic planning and organization/community development. Although his experience is in strategic management, Mr. Valade also has an interest for human rights issues. Mr. Valade is currently organizing an immigration/refugee campaign with CCLA to bring awareness about the new changes to our immigration/refugee system. At this event, Mr. Valade will be bringing a strategic overall view of the issue, showing that contradictory values are building a potential clash over competing objectives: the Conservatives trying to earn the trust of ethnic vote on one side, and their slur campaign against “bogus” refugees designed to ensure the support of their traditional conservative bases, on the other side.
James C. Simeon, Associate Professor in the School of Public Policy and Administration, Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies, and the Acting Director at the Centre for Refugee Studies (CRS) at York University
Prof. Simeon’s research interests include International Refugee Law, International Human Rights Law, and Forced Migration. At this event, Mr. Simeon will be the moderator for our panelists.
on August 29, 2012
The 2012 Summer Series is a collection of essays, articles and op-eds published by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. The Summer Series explores some key questions about rights and responsibilities in democracy and examines topical issues through a civil liberties lens.
To view all articles of the Summer Series, click here.
The article below is an edited version of this article published on the Canadian Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs on August 12, 2012. The article was written in response to Prof. Salim Mansur’s piece entitled “Multiculturalism: What does it mean to be Canadian in the 21st century?“
Multiculturalism is the celebration of different cultures as part of a national identity. In my view, multiculturalism is fundamentally democratic and is a morally sound aspiration, grounded in liberty, equality and the dignity of human beings. It does not lead to coward “relativism” or moral ambiguity, but rather to a rich and innovative society that constantly evolves and engages in self-reflection. No less should be asked of a truly democratic society.
I make three arguments. First, multiculturalism is both morally and culturally sound. Unlike claims made by individuals such as Professor Mansur who state that it is incompatible with liberal political theory because of its promotion of group rights, I argue that these rights are in fact integral to the principle of equality and an example of advances in constitutional theory. Professor Mansur additionally states that multiculturalism is flawed because it helps to promote “bad” cultures, especially problematic in the post-9/11 context where some of these “bad” cultures are bent on undermining liberal democracy. I contest these claim in two ways. First I challenge the claim that multiculturalism necessarily imprisons individuals in oppressive cultural groups, and second I argue that multiculturalism is the best available vehicle for equality, especially compared to the alternative of “monoculturalism” which risks returning to the cultural superiority policies of the past.
Multiculturalism and Equality before the Law
The aspiration for equality is one that is at the core of democratic beliefs. There cannot be any exclusion based on race, ethnic origins, or gender. This commitment to equality is deep and includes not only a recognition that laws should not discriminate but that they should strive to achieve a real and substantive equality.
Multiculturalism recognizes that people live within cultures. A multicultural policy attempts to offer to newcomers or people of minority cultures the ability to feel pride and connections to their heritage, the same way that Protestants, Scottish, Irish, and French Canadians have had the benefit of cultural provisions because of their long establishment in Canada, and their dominant role in framing Canadian policies, which had excluded many Aboriginal contributions. In a way, multiculturalism protects the right to be different from the mainstream culture and to be connected to something else. They are therefore rooted in strong beliefs about liberty because they protect people from the obligation to surrender one’s beliefs to a majoritarian culture.
Professor Mansur objects to the recognition of “group rights”, stating that they are incompatible with liberal political theory. Much has been written about the necessity to recognize group or collective rights to ensure true equality. In Canada, there was always a recognition of some form of collective rights, as there is now at international law. There is always a tension between individual rights and collective rights, but the denial of the existence of the group and the importance of collective rights is antiquated and does not recognize much of the scholarship that has developed. Group rights recognize that it is not possible, for example, to live as a francophone outside Québec without access to schools where French is taught. It is not possible to live as an Aboriginal without access to land where cultural practices may take place.
In Canada, the protection of the multicultural heritage of Canadians has not taken the form of a “group right”. Section 27 of the Charter of rights and freedoms is an interpretative tool and does not confer any direct entitlement. The Charter only states that : “[it] shall be interpreted in a manner consistent with the preservation and enhancement of the multicultural heritage of Canadians.”Instead, multiculturalism has primarily meant access to some governmental funding for cultural events, schools and languages. As of now, there is no constitutional guarantee to this funding, and it has been at the mercy of different governmental priorities.
Multiculturalism and Coercion
Criticisms of multiculturalism suggest that there is a danger in supporting all cultures. Professor Mansur’s objection is that not all cultures are equal, that is, in his view, some are oppressive, dysfunctional, and rooted in archaic beliefs or intolerance. This is certainly possible. We should then explore what tools can be developed to prevent intolerance and the oppression of members. Professor Mansur’s view is that the dismantling of multiculturalism may be a way to prevent the spread of “bad” cultures. I disagree that this is the appropriate mechanism. Indeed my view is that a liberal society believes that the marketplace of ideas is where debates about values should take place and that fostering competition between cultures is the best recipe for the “best” cultural values to prevail. This is what liberal societies cherish because the alternative, giving power to governments to decide which cultures were “bad”, would be privy to discrimination, exploitation, and the exercise of the “tyranny of the majority”.
Nevertheless, there are real risks that some vulnerable people within a group could be exploited, and that the unequal treatment of women or children grounded in cultural or religious beliefs may prevent members of the group to fully realize their potential. What is the solution? The dangers of oppression exist in all families and cultures. In general, the opportunities to leave are what is offered in a free and democratic society : to leave or move away, intellectually, culturally, physically from a cultural environment that one finds oppressive, or that no longer meets one’s desires or demands. A liberal society prides itself in the ability to offer choices, the choice to stay or to go, the choice to comply with religious beliefs or to abandon them, to maintain cultural practices, to change them, to adapt them or to transform them. It also fosters the possibility of discussion or debate.
The only responsibility that a liberal society must undertake is to protect children and people who can be victimised. Canadian society does that : violence against women and against children is a criminal offence: that is the limit. The criminal approach may not resolve all issues and is a blunt tool, but it serves as framework within which differences can be accepted or cherished.
The Alternatives to Multiculturalism
Multiculturalism is not the antithesis to a liberal society. Indeed, it both reinforces equality and liberty aspirations. The dangers of coercion through the group can only be confronted by a continued commitment to reaching out, protecting against violence and ensuring that there is space within Canadian society for continued discussions. Further limitations on these important group rights risk a return to our history of assimilationist residential schools for Aboriginal children and immigration policies that sought to exclude or discourage non-whites from coming to Canada.
We should not be too complacent about this history. Multiculturalism came as a result of a recognition that governments can and often do engage in policies that may appear popular, but are rooted in discriminatory beliefs. To disengage from multiculturalism today would presume a return to a “monoculturalism”, a decision to reject pluralism in favour of the imposition of a predetermined cultural vision. It invites discrimination and this, in my view, would be incompatible with democratic principles.
Nathalie Des Rosiers
on June 29, 2012
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has written a letter to Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney to express deep concerns regarding cuts to the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP), which reduces and denies basic healthcare to refugees and asylum seekers.
By Noa Mendelsohn Aviv
on June 20, 2012
Today – June 20th 2012 – is World Refugee Day, and we Canadians have a lot of work to do if we want to maintain our commitment to help refugees who are escaping persecution, sexual assault, danger and even death.
As we speak, the government is about to complete the process for passing Bill C-31 – a law that could jail innocent asylum seekers for no good reason; could send refugees back to danger following an inadequate refugee claim process, and could discriminate against many refugees.
At this time, Bill C-31 is in the Senate. CCLA and other groups have already succeeded in getting the government to amend the bill in a few key areas and we are hoping for further revisions.
If Bill C-31 is adopted and implemented, we will continue to pressure the government not to abuse the enormous powers it gave itself in this bill, and are contemplating court action.
If Canadians continue to be vigilant, to pressure the government and demand fair and decent treatment for people looking for safety – maybe there will be some good news next World Refugee Day.