Immigration and Refugees

What Do Justin Trudeau and Stephen Harper Have in…

Noa Mendelsohn Aviv
Director of Equality Program





The federal government is trying to roll back significant protections for refugees in an underhanded and undemocratic move.  For so many of us in Canada, we know that immigration is our strength, and protecting refugees is a source of pride. We also must defend refugee rights under our Charter and international law.

The new omnibus Budget Bill (Bill C-97) includes measures that would deprive asylum seekers of a full and fair independent hearing in Canada if they previously filed a claim in the US or certain other countries.

Before critical changes are made and fundamental rights removed, changes to our refugee laws need careful attention, critical consideration, and open discussion by members of Parliament and by the public. This discussion will almost certainly not happen if these changes are included in a Budget bill rammed through the Finance Committee.

A budget bill is supposed to focus on, well, the budget. Looking at Canada’s income and spending over the next year is an enormous task – but it is something the Finance Committee knows how to do. The Finance Committee has neither the time nor the expertise to properly consider and debate what changes to the refugee laws will do to people in Canada seeking asylum, and what harms may befall them if the government removes them. So who does have the time and expertise?

In a free and democratic country like Canada, each of us has the right to vote for our representative to propose, debate, and create (or object to) laws, to look closely at each one, and to hold the government to account.  Therefore, many politicians, including Stephen Harper and Justin Trudeau, have both at some point voiced their strong objection to omnibus budget bills. 

For the same reason, CCLA objects to steamrolling changes to refugee laws through an omnibus budget bill. It is undemocratic and unCanadian – and far more importantly, the consequences for people fleeing persecution, torture, or even death could be horrifying.

CCLA has joined forces with CARL, CCR, BCCLA and Amnesty International to oppose these measures. Please help us – and help demand, at a very minimum, that any changes to Canada’s refugee laws must undergo careful consideration by a Parliamentary committee with the appropriate time and expertise. In just 30 seconds, by using this link you can easily add your name to those opposing this measure – and a letter will be sent to the Prime Minister and other relevant members of Parliament.


If you want to learn more about CCLA’s other campaigns, challenges and initiatives, click here.

Also, contribute to CCLA so that we can continue to stand up for the rights and freedoms of all people in Canada, click here.

Court Cases


Free Abdoul Abdi!! The Canadian Civil Liberties Association is in court today fighting the deportation of child refugee Abdoul Abdi, who was never granted Canadian citizenship while growing up in foster care in Nova Scotia, being moved between foster homes 31 times.

The hearing is set for today (June 19, 2018) in Halifax. CCLA and Justice for Youth and Children (JFYC) are assisting the Court in determining whether and how the Minister’s delegate is required to weigh Charter rights, values and international law when exercising discretion under s. 44(2) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA), particularly respecting Mr. Abdi’s right to equality under s. 15(1) of the Charter. In a nutshell, considering that the state did him wrong, and that Black youth from refugee backgrounds face systemic barriers, it is unjust for the state to now deport Abdoul Abdi.

As the Supreme Court recently confirmed, government decision-makers must appropriately consider Charter rights and values when they exercise their powers. Youth in care face many vulnerabilities including barriers to obtaining citizenship, which are even more significant for Black youth and youth who come from refugee backgrounds.

The government must not refer such vulnerable individuals to a hearing that will result in the loss of their permanent resident status and eventual deportation if doing so would result in inequality based on their race, age, family status and citizenship. That’s exactly what’s happening to Abdoul.

The CCLA submits, particularly where systemic barriers have been raised before the Minister’s delegate, the government must consider how their decision would exacerbate the pre-existing disadvantage of Black youth in care. We’ll also argue that the Court should acknowledge the systemic barriers affecting African Canadian youth, in assessing the reasonableness of the Minister’s delegate’s decision on judicial review.

CCLA is represented by Nasha Nijhawan and Kelly McMillan of Nijhawan McMillan Barristers.

Read CCLA’s factum here.

*The judicial review hearing is set for June 19, 2018 at 1:00pm in Courtroom 501 at the Law Courts (1815 Lower Water Street) in Halifax.

In the News:

Toronto Star: Former child refugee Abdoul Abdi’s judicial review set for today in Halifax
Toronto Star: Two groups seek intervener status at former child refugee Abdoul Abdi’s judicial review
Halifax Examiner: Abdoul Abdi’s defenders are “piling on,” complain government lawyers who are trying to deport him