Subject: Sanctuary for Refugees
Moved By: Bishop Sue Moxley,
from the Diocese of Nova Scotia
Seconded By: Mel Malton,
from the Diocese of Algoma
Note: The mover and the seconder must be members of the General Synod and be present in the House when the resolution is before the synod for debate.
BE IT RESOLVED:
That this General Synod request the
creation of a working group within the next triennium to develop a policy for
the national church that would enable parishes and dioceses to give prayerful
consideration to the moral, ethical and legal challenges raised by requests
for sanctuary from families and individuals whose claim for refugee status has
been rejected by Canada’s refugee determination system—a system
where errors happen, where there is no appeal on the merit of the case and where
errors result in grave consequences for refugees facing return to countries
where they fear for their lives.
EXPLANATORY NOTE/BACKGROUND INFORMATION
Refugee advocates cite the lack of an appeal on the merits of the case as the
most fundamental flaw in Canada’s refugee determination system. Although
the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act includes provisions for the establishment
of a Refugee Appeal Division, the law was implemented without those sections
of the Act that give refugee claimants the right of appeal. Other flaws
include: a single decision maker entrusted with the decision on whether or not
to grant refugee status and concerns about the ability of the decision maker
because the appointments to the Immigration and Refugee Board have not been
based on merit alone but have been influenced by patronage considerations.
Given these and other flaws in the system, refugees in Canada cannot be assured
of a fair and just determination of their refugee claim. Fearing imprisonment,
torture or even death should they be sent back home, some refused refugee claimants
facing removal orders turn to sanctuary as their last resort. These requests
for sanctuary are the last desperate cries for protection taken by people who
believe deeply that the refugee determination system has failed them.
Since the 1980s, several individual churches across Canada have used the centuries
old tradition of sanctuary to address the threat of persecution expressed by
individuals and families who feared return back to their homeland after their
claim for refugee status was rejected. Recent cases of churches providing sanctuary
include: Two Unitarian congregations (one in Ottawa and another in Quebec),
two Montreal-area United Church congregations and one Anglican Parish in Halifax.
The churches took this action of civil disobedience because they believed the
system had failed the claimants and that the refugees would face harm if returned
Sanctuary provides some measure of temporary protection for people whose refugee
claim has been wrongly rejected. It is a public action aimed at appealing to
the government to reconsider the decision to remove.
On March 5, police entered a church without permission of the church authorities
and forcibly removed an Algerian refugee who had taken sanctuary in a Quebec
City church to avoid return to his homeland. This was the first time in recent
history that the authorities in Canada pulled a person out of sanctuary.
Following the Quebec incident, KAIROS wrote a letter to the Ministers of Public
Safety and Citizenship and Immigration requesting assurance from the federal
government that it will address the flaws in the refugee determination process
and commit to negotiated settlement rather than brute force as the first means
of resolving a sanctuary issue.
“When we challenge the causes of injustice that uproot people, the church
must be prepared to pay the price of confronting established powers and privileges”.
World Council of Churches Statement on Uprooted People.
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