Canada’s new refugee system, to be implemented on December 1, 2011, will require all refugee claimants to attend a disclosure interview before an officer of the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) within 15 days of making their claim.
Critiques of the system suggest that refugee claimants will not have time to receive legal advice to prepare for their first interview. “Asking refugee claimants detailed questions about their claim without legal advice or representation is fundamentally a bad idea. Claimants do not understand the refugee definition or refugee procedures,” explains Peter Showler, Director of the Refugee Forum at the University of Ottawa.
The Access to Justice Fund of the Law Foundation of Ontario has given a grant of $350,000 to the University of Ottawa and the Refugee Forum to undertake a project that will help provide refugee claimants with information about a newly created disclosure interview.
Four professors at the University of Ottawa Law School, in conjunction with the Human Rights Research and Education Centre and the Refugee Forum, will:
- draft written information materials on the disclosure interview (that will be evaluated for effectiveness);
- develop workshops for refugee support workers across Canada; and
- develop a website.
Outreach and community engagement will be done through Maytree and other refugee-serving networks, groups, communities and leaders.
Claimants will receive the information about the interview in pamphlet form as well as directly from community refugee support workers who are most likely to engage claimants in that 15-day period before the interview.
The entire project, including contributions from refugee experts and refugee support agencies, is valued at more than a million dollars.
“Although the challenges of the new refugee system are formidable, we are seeing a lot of different agencies and advocates step up to address those challenges,” says Peter. “We are hopeful that the Refugee Assistance project will help to organize and galvanize effective responses to some of the deficiencies in the new refugee system. It is not a complete solution but it is a good start. We are grateful to the Law Foundation for its support.”
Maytree has a long history of working closely with Peter and the Refugee Forum, including direct support towards its establishment, and we’re very pleased to hear of this grant. Most recently, Peter wrote the Maytree report Fast, Fair and Final: Reforming Canada’s Refugee System. He is also a regular and respected commentator on Canada’s immigration and refugee system.