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Statement on Designated Countries of Origin

Dec 14, 2012 | Community Partners, Press Releases

December 14, 2012

Ottawa, ON – In response to the federal government’s announced list of Designated Countries of Origin, Shimon Fogel, CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, issued the following statement:

“The Jewish community remembers with sorrow Canada’s ‘none is too many’ policy regarding Jewish refugees fleeing the horrors of Europe in the 1930s and 1940s. With this history in mind, we believe that Canada should always strive to be a world leader in the effort to help desperate refugees escape persecution.

“We are satisfied that the government’s changes to the immigration and refugee system do not preclude any refugee applicant from coming to Canada and receiving fair adjudication of their claim by the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) with recourse to appeal. We are also satisfied that the evaluation process for listing a country is sufficiently based on objective quantitative and qualitative requirements.

“With regard to the focus on Jewish and Roma populations facing persecution in Hungary, we are encouraged by the steps undertaken recently by the Government of Hungary and the European Union to ensure that these groups are protected. We appreciate Minister Kenney’s visit to Hungary to personally examine these issues, and we will continue to work with the World Jewish Congress to monitor and assess the situation.

“On balance, the Centre believes that the Designated Country of Origin (DCO) list is a net improvement to Canada’s refugee system. It is our hope that this list will help alleviate the clogging of the system with frivolous or fraudulent claims from typically safe countries, while ensuring vulnerable refugee populations quickly get the protection and support they need.

“However, we believe there are two key deficiencies in the DCO regulations that should be addressed. First, there are no clear provisions for how a designated country could be removed from the list should the situation there merit a re-evaluation. Second, DCO applicants awaiting a ruling by the IRB only have access to the same basic healthcare coverage extended to failed claimants awaiting deportation. We propose that DCO refugee applicants receive the same health coverage as non-DCO applicants awaiting adjudication of their claims, especially given their expedited evaluation process.

“It is important to clarify that the DCO system, while imperfect, is in no way analogous   to the mistreatment by Canada of those fleeing Nazism. All refugee applicants from DCOs are allowed to land on Canadian soil and are guaranteed access to fair investigation and adjudication of their claims. If the current system were in place in the 1930s and 1940s, perhaps many more Jews would have been saved from the horrors of the Holocaust.”

For further details, please see the Centre’s backgrounder on the changes to Canada’s immigration and refugee system.

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The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs is a non-partisan organization that serves as the advocacy arm of the Jewish Federations of Canada.

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