The second round of hearings on Bill C-11 in the Senate committee on social affairs heard from interested stakeholder groups – the Canadian Council of Refugees, the Canadian Bar Association, and Lorne Waldman, an independent lawyer who is a recognised expert on immigration and refugee law.
Both the CCR and the CBA outlined similar concerns – the lack of provisions to introduce new evidence of risk for claimants due to changing circumstances, the ability for CBSA to remove failed claimants before their humanitarian and compassionate claims are completed, the lack of merit-based appointments at the IRB, and the timelines for interviews and hearings, especially when translation and even transcripts of those initial interviews may be causes for breakdowns.
Nevertheless, both the witnesses from the CBA and Mr. Waldman felt the bill should be passed unamended, as the positives outweighed the negatives after the compromises in the Commons – Waldman saying it was the first time he’d ever said so in all his years of appearing before committees.
During questions, the CCR pointed out potential gaps in coverage for certain refugee claimants whose individual circumstances might have changed since they made a claim, as opposed to generalised conditions on a country changing as the act allow for. Waldman however said this potential gap could likely be remedied using the Charter.
Conservative Senator Don Plett (a former president of the Conservative Party, it should be noted), attacked the CCR for criticising the minister, and statements that they had made that were critical that resulted from a mistake in a press release. The chair, Art Eggleton, soon shut this line of questions down as it strayed from the bill. Senator Nicole Eaton later wondered why the CCR couldn’t ever say anything nice about the bill, rather than constantly being critical about it. The CCR replied that it was their job to critique the flaws, rather than to simply lavish praise, even if there were good parts.
Questions on the current backlog of refugee claims saw a reminder of the Conservatives’ allowing vacancies to go unfilled on the IRB, and whether there should be a review of the bill down the road. Waldman said such a review would be a good idea a year or so down the road, as the new sections were being implemented, so that potential problems could be addressed before they grew.
Clause-by-clause review continues later tonight, but it seems unlikely that any amendments will be introduced, however a report may with a number or recommendations for implementation of the bill may be drafted, per many of Waldman’s suggestions.