Open Letter to Minister Jason Kenney from Canadian Council for Refugees re: War Resisters

    TORONTO, Jan. 9 /CNW/ -

    Letter concerning war resisters

    8 January 2009

    The Honourable Jason Kenney, P.C., M.P.
    Minister for Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism
    Citizenship and Immigration Canada
    Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 1L1

    Dear Minister,

    I am writing to convey to you the concerns of the Canadian Council for
Refugees at some of your recent public remarks about US war resisters who have
sought Canada's protection.
    Firstly, we welcome the fact that you underlined, in your letter to the
Toronto Sun, published 2 January 2009, that the Immigration and Refugee Board
is an independent tribunal.
    Given that the IRB is independent, it is highly inappropriate for you to
express your opinions on how you believe IRB members should make refugee
determinations. To do so gives the strong appearance of political
interference. This is especially so given that reappointments are made by
Cabinet: Board members might fear that if they do not follow your
interpretation their chances of reappointment will be reduced. Highly
publicized cases such as the war resisters are always challenging for the IRB
which must live up to its obligation to make fair, impartial and politically
unmotivated determinations, based on the jurisprudence and the evidence before
it. Public comments such as yours only make IRB members' job more difficult
and threaten claimants' right to an unbiased decision.
    Whether or not the war resisters are found to meet the Convention refugee
definition, the war in Iraq is contrary to international law and has been
conducted in a manner that has involved extensive documented human rights
abuses. Given these facts, we are surprised and dismayed to find you making
disparaging remarks about these individuals and even finding fault with them
simply for making a refugee claim. These are individuals who deserve our
admiration for following their consciences and refusing to participate in
wrongdoing, at significant cost to themselves.
    We are also shocked to see you arguing that the claims made by US war
resisters are leading to delays for others in the refugee claim process. This
is not a credible argument given that the number of US war resisters making
claims in Canada is miniscule and can have no appreciable impact on the delays
faced by refugees. On the other hand, as you are aware, the failure of your
government to appoint sufficient Board members has led to the creation of a
huge backlog and extremely lengthy delays for refugees. Resolving the need for
sufficient appointments to the IRB by Cabinet will go a very long way to
shortening delays in justice for refugees; negative comments about war
resisters will not.
    The Canadian Council for Refugees supports all war resisters from any
country who refuse to engage in armed conflict that is contrary to
international humanitarian law.
    We urge you to allow such war resisters to remain in Canada on
humanitarian and compassionate grounds, if they are facing removal to a
country where they would face punishment for their refusal to participate in
such an armed conflict. As you know, finding a resolution in this way for the
war resisters would win wide support among Canadians and would be in line with
the motion adopted by Parliament in June 2008 calling for a program allowing
war resisters to apply for permanent residence.

    Yours sincerely,

    Elizabeth McWeeny

    AVAILABLE FOR INTERVIEW: War resisters are available for interviews in
Toronto. A representative of the Canadian Council for Refugees is available
for comment in Montreal. Libby Davies, Vancouver East MP, and Borys
Wrzesnewskyj, Etobicoke Centre MP, are also available to speak to journalists.

For further information:

For further information: or to arrange an interview, please contact Lee
Zaslofsky, Coordinator, War Resisters Support Campaign, (416) 598-1222 and
(416) 369-0864; or Ken Marciniec, Communications Volunteer, War Resisters
Support Campaign, (416) 803-6066; or Colleen French, Communication
Coordinator, Canadian Council for Refugees, (514) 277-7223 ext. 1; or the
office of MP Libby Davies, (613) 992-6030; or the office of MP Borys
Wrzesnewskyj, (416) 249-7322 and (613) 947-5000

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