Canadian Press, February 11, 2011
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney is lashing out at the judicial system, accusing judges and lawyers of undermining Canada’s immigration process by indulging spurious refugee cases.
In the text of a speech to the law faculty at the University of Western Ontario in London, Kenney says Federal Court judges are too often second-guessing legitimate policy decisions, working against the reforms legislators have made to improve the system.
“If we can’t find a way to reduce the interminable process by which immigration cases creep through the courts, slouching from appeal to appeal, the changes will be of little use and the progress we have made will be for nought,” Kenney said.
In a speech heavy with legal references and stories of refugee claimants playing the Canadian courts for years, at a high cost to taxpayers, Kenney urged the judiciary to be more co-operative.
“We need the judiciary to understand the spirit of what we are trying to do,” he said.
“There are serious criminals we have been trying to remove who have been able to delay their deportation through repetitive appeals for almost 20 years.”
Federal courts are flooded with appeals from would-be refugees who are manipulating the system to extend their stay in Canada. But only one per cent of those appeals are successful, Kenney notes.
“So it concerns me when I hear that more than half of the cases that come before the Federal Court are immigration- or refugee-related,” he says.
“It suggests to me that the integrity of the decisions made by my department is being questioned too often without sufficient justification.”
Both the government and the public are despairing over the ability of unacceptable refugee claimants to take advantage of Canada’s courts, he claimed.
Kenney says the Supreme Court has already told lower-court judges they should defer to a ministerial decision to deport someone–unless it’s obvious the decision was made in bad faith.
He warns that Parliament’s best efforts to design an efficient and fair immigration and refugee system won’t work unless the judiciary starts co-operating.
“Even in easy cases, the removal process can be exploited by clever immigration lawyers who know that our courts are too often willing to indulge even the most creative and dubious claims,” he warned.
He accused the courts of “intrusive and heavy-handed” interference in well-reasoned decisions made by officials.
And he said it’s well known that judges will often hand criminals sentences of two years less a day–ensuring they stay in provincial jails, rather than federal–so that the criminals can delay deportation.
Parliament passed a major overhaul of the refugee system last spring, and it is due to come into force in the coming months.
The new system aims to speed the deportation of false refugee claimants, and also help legitimate refugees get their claims accepted more quickly.
Kenney is also hoping to see Parliament agree to a crackdown on human smugglers. But that proposed legislation has been blocked by opposition parties, who say it treats refugee claimants unfairly and would breach the Charter of Rights.