Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Immigration and Refugee Experts Call Shinanigans on Jason Kenney

It appears that Mexicans, Czechs and Liberal bloggers aren't the only ones who consider Immigration Minister Jason Kenney's recent actions and comments regarding refugee claimants to be highly inappropriate.

Embassy Magazine speaks to several refugee and immigration experts, including the former chair of the Immigration and Refugee Board, who feel that Kenney's recent blanket dismissal of both Roma and Mexican refugee claimants as fraudulent and illegitimate not only degrades individual claimants, but also amounts to political interference with the functioning of what is supposed to be an independent agency by introducing institutional bias into the system.

"The people who are members of the IRB ultimately depend on the minister of citizenship and immigration, and more generally the government, to keep them in their jobs," said Audrey Macklin, an associate professor at the University of Toronto's Faculty of Law. "When the minister pronounces on the validity, or lack thereof, of refugee claimants from any country without having heard the particular case and knowing the individual circumstances, there is the risk that individual decision makers whose jobs ultimately depend on the minister's decision to appoint and reappoint them, will be unduly influenced. They might be fearful when their time comes up for reappointment that he will examine their acceptance rates from the countries where he has deemed refugee claimants to be bogus, and penalize them."

I was particularly shocked to read the Minister's comments regarding Roma refugee claimants from the Czech Republic:

In June, Mr. Kenney referred to a report on the Czech Republic, conducted by IRB researchers, as proof the Czech government was committed to improving the legal and economic opportunities for Roma, and suggested this was evidence that Czech Roma face no real risk.

"If someone comes in and says the police have been beating the crap out of them, the IRB panelists can then go to their report and say, 'Well, actually, there's been no evidence of police brutality,'" Mr. Kenney told the Toronto Star on June 24.

In fact, it's not the police but the growing number of neo-Nazis in the Czech Republic who have been attacking and killing the Roma there - a detail which one would have hoped Kenney would have known.

Another complaint about Kenney's handling of the IRB is his reluctance to appoint or re-appoint board members, which the article notes as the real reason behind the backlog of refugee cases, which has led in turn to long delays that have made Canada such an appealing destination for bogus claimants. Kenney denies this, actually accusing one blogger of wearing a "tin foil hat" for believing this accusation and insisting that he has made every effort to fill vacancies on the board.

Curious, then, that the Auditor General raised this very issue not four months ago, linking it directly with the case backlog and placing the blame squarely with the Minister.

The article concludes with one lawyer accusing the government of intentionally sabotaging the IRB for political reasons. It may sound like more 'tin foil hat' theorizing, but it wouldn't be the first time this particular government has been suspected of running the same sort of "Wrecking Crew" operation that has effectively disabled and dismantled so much of the U.S. government over the past 30 years or so.

Let's hope it really is just paranoia.

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