Refugee Rights Day, April 4, 2011
April 3, 2011
It’s impossible to address the story of the Hungarian community in Canada without encountering that highly charged word: Refugee. Although it certainly does not define the Canadian-Hungarian experience, it certainly captures a fundamental piece of the story and the responses to those life-threatening events of 1956.
On April 4, 2011, Canada celebrates Refugee Rights Day with a series of events across the country. This is no arbitrary date. April 4 was selected because it was the day in 1985 that the Supreme Court of Canada delivered one of its truly “landmark” decisions concerning the status of refugees. On April 4, 1985, the court delivered its ruling on the Singh case, dealing with a challenge to a decision by the then Minister of Immigration and Refugee Status Advisory Committee. Harbhajan Singh and six others had claimed refugee status in Canada on the grounds that they feared persecution in their country of origin. Although they were foreign nationals they claimed protection under the Canadian Charter. Originally rejected, their claim went through various levels of appeal before arriving at the Supreme Court of Canada for a final decision. The Supreme Court’s judges decided in their favour: the foreign national claimants were indeed protected under the Charter.
Refugee Rights Day provides all Canadians with an opportunity to consider the experience of refugees past and present and how these fundamental rights are to be respected. And 2011 is also an important year because it is also the 60th anniversary of a key initiative of the United Nations’ refugee agency: UNHCR. Sixty years ago UNHCR won the support of the United Nations for its Convention on the Status of Refugees. 2011 also marks the 50th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.
Since many Refugee Rights Day events have been scheduled in communities all across Canada, rather than list them here we direct you to this comprehensive listing (where you can also add details of your own events should they not be included). Here’s the site: http://ccrweb.ca/en/refugee-rights-day
In the meantime, The National Post’s Andy Lamy has just released Frontier Justice: The Global Refugee Crisis and What To Do About It. As Lamy explains, his book “is intended to counter some of the misconceptions about refugees that commonly appear in the media.” By this he means the misinformation that Canada’s refugee system is a conduit for terrorists. He says his book “draws on interviews with prominent members of the refugee NGO community and proposes a new framework of refugee rights.” NGOs are especially important, stresses Lamy, because of their record of protecting human rights. “The book examines contemporary refugee controversies in Europe, North America and Australia, with an extensive discussion of refugee issues in Canada.” Lamy says these examples are important because refugees always have a better chance of being accepted in countries that embrace multiculturalism.
Starting on Refugee Rights Day, Lamy has scheduled a series of presentations on this topic in Toronto, Ottawa, Burlington and Halifax. Details can be found at the Canadian Council for Refugees’ website: http://ccrweb.ca/
Happy Refugee Rights Day!