On the heels of the Supreme Court ruling that the federal government can’t mandate any specific test for whether a refugee is a genuine refugee, the Trudeau government is again scrambling to find a new test for which it can be relied upon.
In a policy brief filed on Thursday with the federal court in Vancouver, the government said it will review “the extent to which there is a difference between a refugee claim under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and a claim under existing federal legislation.”
In its latest effort to address a potential shortage of applicants, the Liberals have been pushing for a new form of refugee assessment called the “Canadian Border Security Assessment.”
The government argues that the test will help determine if a refugee “has arrived in Canada by direct or indirect means.”
It will be used to decide whether to grant a refugee a refugee protection visa, or whether the refugee can be granted a refugee status under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA).
The federal government, which has been fighting to win over voters with its promise to reduce the number of Syrian refugees who will be resettled in Canada, has been in the process of revising the new assessment since January, after a raft of public comments by government ministers.
But the government’s argument is not entirely convincing.
While the government has released a draft of the test for the public to review, it does not provide any explanation for why the new test is needed in the first place.
A spokesperson for the minister responsible for the Canadian Border Services Agency told the National Post that “a new assessment is a process and there are many possible options that can be considered and developed by government before a new assessment can be developed.”
“This is just one of those things that has to be reviewed and assessed and we are doing that,” the spokesperson said.
The spokesperson did not respond to an email requesting comment from the Canadian Press.
As of December 30, the federal minister responsible had not released a final version of the new border assessment.
According to the government, the new Canadian Border Security Analysis is an attempt to “enhance the security of Canada and Canada’s allies by identifying the most vulnerable of refugees and migrants,” adding that “this new assessment will help ensure that Canada remains a safe and secure country.”
It is unclear whether the government intends to release a new version of this assessment before its current assessment expires in 2019.
“The current assessment has not been reviewed by the Department of Citizenship and Immigration,” the statement reads.
The government’s decision to revamp the assessment came amid a backlash from civil rights advocates, who said the new testing was a violation of the rights of asylum seekers, refugees and asylum seekers who were not granted refugee protection.
As part of the review, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal found in 2014 that the current assessment, which was administered by the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), was biased in favour of those who were seeking asylum, and had a “profound impact on the process” for refugees who were denied refugee protection, as the government argued.
As a result of that ruling, the Government of Canada launched a legal challenge, which eventually was dismissed by the Supreme of Canada in 2015.
According the Canadian Refugee Lawyer’s Association, the tribunal’s ruling “concluded that the refugee status provisions in the Canada Border Services Act did not apply to the claims of asylum-seeking refugees and that refugee protection was a fundamental right guaranteed by the Canadian Constitution.”
The case was eventually settled out of court, but the tribunal still found that the new assessments were “not adequate” and “did not provide the necessary safeguards against discrimination against vulnerable claimants.”
The tribunal said it had found the assessment was biased against asylum seekers and refugees, and that the “disproportionate impact of the current test on claimants” was a “serious and significant issue.”
In a statement released on Thursday, the Refugee Council of Canada, which represents refugee claimants and asylum-seekers, slammed the government for failing to review the new tests.
“This government’s plan to review refugee status assessment decisions is a betrayal of our commitment to protect refugees and immigrants,” said Jody Wilson-Raybould, director of the council’s refugee protection and advocacy program.
“It is a slap in the face to vulnerable people and their families who are forced to make difficult decisions about where to go or where to seek help, and it will only make it harder for them to stay in Canada.”