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Ever since it was created in 1989, the Immigration and Refugee Board and the refugee determination system that it administers has been a work in progress. Successive governments have tinkered with the system – reducing the number of Board Members hearing individual claims from two to one, designating so called safe countries, expediting straightforward claims and then cancelling the expedited program, etc. In December 2012 the rules of the game changed dramatically again with mandatory time frames requiring new refugee claims to be heard within sixty days. Claims made prior to December 2012 and not yet heard became known as “legacy” claims, as opposed to backlog claims, lest the government be accused of creating a new refugee backlog. The Harper government’s plan was to hear the remaining legacy claims until the legacy/backlog was cleared. However for the last couple of years legacy claims are simply not being scheduled. To date...


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Embassy Magazine – August 3rd, 2011 Kristen Shane

The possible imposition of visas on Hungary to cut off an influx of asylum seekers was serious enough to be included in a briefing note to Immigration Minister Jason Kenney in advance of a meeting with the UN high commissioner for refugees, newly released documents show.

And while the measure was never introduced, the documents have once again highlighted the sensitivities surrounding visa requirements and the anticipation with which some countries are waiting for the government’s new “safe-country” list.

High Commissioner António Guterres met Immigration Minister Jason Kenney during a March 23 to 25, 2010 visit to Ottawa. Media reports had earlier flagged a skyrocketing number of Hungarian refugee claims since the Canadian government lifted previous visa requirements on the country in the spring of 2008. At that time there had been between 20 and 40 a month, but with the visas removed, the number had...


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Embassy Magazine – July 13, 2011 Anca Gurzu

By the time Canada’s reformed refugee legislation kicks in next year, tens of thousands of refugee claimants will still be waiting for a hearing—and the Immigration and Refugee Board says it won’t have the resources to deal with these leftover files. Experts say this development counters the purpose of streamlining the new system and may also undermine its effectiveness. They worry genuine refugees will be placed in an indefinite and unbearable wait, while unfounded claimants will continue to exploit their stay longer.

The IRB’s report on plans and priorities for 2011-2012, released in June, highlights several transformative steps officials will take to accommodate the changes of the new reform legislation, which Parliament passed in June 2010 in an attempt to make Canada’s refugee system faster and more efficient. Among other things, the IRB will add another body to its structure, the Refugee Appeal Division, something...


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Embassy Magazine May 25, 2011 Anca Gurzu

In the days after the May 2 federal election, the buzz around Jason Kenney was that the man credited with securing the Conservatives’ new majority government would receive a huge promotion. Some had even touted him as Canada’s next foreign affairs minister. But on May 18, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that Mr. Kenney would remain minister of citizenship, immigration and multiculturalism. While this may have prompted disappointment, experts say the energetic and sometimes controversial Mr. Kenney is the right person to keep the increasingly important immigration portfolio high on the government agenda.

Active minister

For the past five years, Mr. Kenney’s primary mission was to capture traditionally-Liberal voters from key diaspora communities across the country. This effort continued even after he was appointed immigration minister in October 2008. Details of Mr. Kenney’s strategy became a big point of controversy when NDP MP Linda Duncan received on March...


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Embassy Magazine – March 30, 2011 Anca Gurzu

The government has released much awaited criteria for designating which countries will be considered “safe,” meaning asylum seekers coming from them will be processed faster. While experts have generally welcomed the regulations, there are worries the process could become politicized as the immigration minister has a fair degree of latitude while the guidelines themselves are considered fairly limited. The “designated countries of origin” provision is a key and controversial aspect of the reformed refugee legislation, whose purpose is to deter unfounded claims. It allows the immigration minister to create a list of countries from which Canada is receiving large influx of refugee claims, but which are also considered to have sound human rights records.

Nationals from those countries arriving at Canada’s borders will go through an expedited assessment process, which includes less time to file an appeal. The minister can start assessing a country only...


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