The Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre (MHMC) is urging the Canadian government to remove Hungary and possibly other eastern European countries from the list of designated “safe” countries of origin created by the new Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act, formerly known as the omnibus refugee Bill C-31.
Of the 27 countries named by Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, 25 are members of the European Union, while the others are Croatia and the United States.
The MHMC is concerned that Canada has already dismissed certain refugee cases as unfounded, especially in the case of eastern European countries such as Hungary, where violent extreme right movements exist and a far-right politician recently called for the creation of a list of all Jews in the country for security reasons.
The MHMC also notes that the Roma have been the targets of human rights violations and hostility.
“The fact that a government is elected democratically does not necessarily mean that it will assure the safety and equal treatment of a country’s minority,” said MHMC board member Daniel Rabinowicz. “The Canadian refugee status determination system already evaluates each case on its own merits.”
On Dec. 14, Kenney named 27 countries that Canada has deemed to be unlikely to produce refugees. Claimants from these countries will be fast-tracked, leaving them with less time to prepare than asylum seekers from elsewhere, and they won’t have the same right of appeal.
Refugee claimants from these countries will have 45 days until their hearing if they make a claim at the border, and 30 days if it’s made inland. They will have no opportunity to appeal a negative decision before the new appeal division within the Immigration and Refugee Board, or on humanitarian or compassionate grounds.
They will also be subject to swifter deportations and will not be eligible for free health care.
“This decision contradicts the words of Mr. Kenney who, in January 2011 at the inauguration of a monument commemorating the fate of the Jewish passengers of the MS St. Louis, promised not to commit the same errors as were committed by Canada before and during World War II,” Rabinowicz said.
In June, when Bill C-31 received royal assent, the MHMC called on the government to respect its commitment not to repeat the mistakes that cost the lives of Jews in the 1930s, and to uphold the Canadian tradition since then of openness and solidarity with all refugees.