Advocacy Makes a Difference!
Refugee claimants are often misrepresented, misconstrued, and misunderstood. It is for this reason that MCRS encourages everyone to spend some time getting familiar with the issues faced by refugee claimants.
While much of our advocacy is client specific and is done by MCRS staff, there are times when others can help. MCRS is an active member of The Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR), a non-profit organization committed to the rights and protection of refugees in Canada and around the world. CCR advocates for refugees through media, government relations and by creating public awareness.
You can stay informed about pressing issues through the CCR site. We highlight those things specific to our clients on both our website and our Facebook page. Keep watching both of these platforms for specific opportunities to join us in petitioning for change. Together, we make a difference!
Here are the answers to some of the questions asked by our community that you might find helpful:
How do Canadian authorities determine that someone is a refugee in “real” fear for their life, with no actual proof or witness versus economic refugees who are seeking a better life and opportunity than what is available in their country of origin?
The refugee claim process is complex and thorough and requires proof that someone has experienced harm or has a legitimate fear that they will experience harm if returned to their country of origin. The system errs on the side of wrongly deporting someone more than wrongly providing protection. Protection is never granted on the basis of just wanting a better life.
If the refugee situation is a Federal responsibility, why do we expect Provincial funding for it?
The Refugee situation is a Canadian responsibility with Federal and Provincial elements to it appropriate to jurisdictional authorities and optimal delivery of services. What the province is being asked to contribute to support refugee claimants is almost negligible (0.3%) compared to the overall Provincial Revenues which were 152.5 BILLION in 2018.
Are there ongoing efforts to repeal the “safe third country” policy? Have any political parties shown support?
Yes, the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) is presently before the Supreme Court of Canada and is being challenged as a violation of Canada’s Charter of Rights. It is apolicy walldesigned to limit the number of people who can seek asylum in Canada. It assumes that the U.S. is a safe country for asylum seekers, however, the asylum systems are vastly different in the two countries, and there has been a significant negative change in how asylum seekers are treated in the U.S.
As of March 2019, the Conservative Party would like to see the STCA expanded to cover our entire border, again, a wall built with policy instead of bricks, steel or barbed wire. The Liberal Party is exploring such expansion but is also aware of the many political and social challenges that will come with that, as well as the risks that will be elevated for asylum seekers who, in their desperation, will try more dangerous and covert ways to enter Canada. The NDP is in favour of repealing the entire act so that people can safely come to border points and engage the eligibility process that is already in place there for anyone who comes to that border point.
Is the mainstream media willing to report positive aspects of refugee claimants? How can a negative perception be changed?
Yes, there are many in mainstream media who work hard to provide a fair and accurate picture of refugee claimants. As with any people group, there will always be those who present a negative view. What is important to remember is that people like you have a lot of power to help those in the media report well by speaking up when what is reported isn’t accurate or kind.
How can refugees help Canada?
Refugees are people like you and me. They had a life filled with dreams, jobs, families, and things they loved to do before it was all disrupted and made impossible to continue. The people that come to MCRS are educated, engaged, and were making a difference in their communities back home. Many of them are professionals including lawyers, doctors, engineers, business owners, government personnel, journalists, teachers, human rights activists and so much more. That’s why they were targeted. They bring great skills, a compassionate perspective on others, and a deep commitment to doing life well. They enhance and strengthen Canada!
Is there an alternate source of financing from municipal or another level of government?
At present, MCRS does not receive funding from any level of government. We are so thankful for the community members who donate to ensure we can be here to help claimants. We are also thankful that the people we serve are able to access Ontario Works, Legal Aid, and Emergency shelter when needed. Most of the people we accompany are working within their first year here and contributing to the strength of the community, thankful for the opportunities they get while they wait to learn if they will be allowed to stay.
What would Oscar’s experience have looked like if he had arrived in Canada?
Just as in the movie, children can be sent by parents in the hope that they will find protection in Canada. This is an excruciating decision that often means children will be separated from their parents for years; some will never see their parents again. When they arrive, unaccompanied minors will go through a security screening designed to confirm their identity. If they are under 16 years of age they will be detained for a short time and then placed into a foster family. They will be assigned a designated representative to accompany them to their hearing.
However, there are still children who are detained, sometimes in isolation, and for extended periods. The most notable detention
was of a 16-year-old Syrian who was kept in isolation in Toronto for three weeks. Canada has been repeatedly criticized by
United Nations human rights bodies for its immigration detention practices, including with respect to children.
What’s the situation of refugees in Canada?
Refugees in Canada make up about 0.2% of the population. For the most part, many of them are settling into their new life and contributing in meaningful ways to the communities they live in. Some have found it harder as they struggle to learn a new language, new climate, and different ways of doing life than what they were familiar with. Many also continue to try and recover from trauma and deep losses. It is never easy to be forcibly displaced and then come to the realization they will never be able to return home. Many of them were harshly separated from significant people in their lives – children, spouses, parents – and it is hard to go on with life without them.