“They’re going to do it on Thursday,” Sabreen’s brother-in-law quietly told her once the other men of the family had left, after their meeting. It was a Monday afternoon, and in three days, Sabreen would be killed by her cousin. She had refused a marriage arranged by her father, and there was no honour in the family while she lived.
“It will be better for everyone,” Sabreen answered calmly. But her bones screamed, and for the first time since this hell began, she did not want to die.
Name changed to protect identity.
Would Sabreen get in to Canada today?
Claim analysis by Barbara Jackman
Assuming country conditions in Israel today are what they were in 2006 when she left Israel, it is likely that Sabreen may well be denied protection in Canada if she were seeking it now.
There are several issues which would seriously impact on Sabreen’s ability to present her case and to have the merits of her claim accepted.
Designated Country of Origin (DCO): From the outset, Sabreen faces an assumption that her claim is without merit because the Minister of Citizenship & Immigration, a strong supporter of Israel in any event, designated it in February, 2013 as a country that does not produce refugees. Among the factors considered for such a designation are whether the country has an independent judicial system, recognizes basic democratic rights and freedoms, offers mechanisms for redress if such rights and freedoms are infringed, and has civil society organizations. The fact that Israel may have these things does not mean, of course, that Sabreen would be able to access protection such that the male members of her family and community would not kill her.
As a claimant from a DCO, Sabreen would be treated differently than regular claimants.
Time Limits: Sabreen entered Canada in 2006 and then made her claim within a month after arrival. She did not have a hearing until the end of 2007. Because a delay in registering a claim is normally taken as an indication that the person does not have a real fear of persecution, if Sabreen were making a claim today she would be wise not to delay long before reporting to immigration officials to register her claim. She would have to provide her claim form and supporting documents at the time the officer decides if she is eligible, which is usually shortly after coming forward to indicate that she wanted to make a claim. Once her case was referred to the Refugee Division, she would have to have a hearing within 45 days. Sabreen had some time to prepare her claim when she came in 2006. Her lawyer was able to contact women’s organizations in Israel and get supporting evidence from them about the failure of the police to protect women like her from ‘honour’ killings. And Sabreen was able to obtain a psychological assessment. Corroborative evidence is often crucial in establishing the credibility of a claim.
In Sabreen’s case, given that the Minister has designated Israel as a country which is assumed to provide protection, the evidence that the police do not protect women in her situation would be essential to present in support of her claim. But under the current system, Sabreen would be rushed through quickly once she came forward and registered and might not be able to get the evidence she needed in time to present with her claim. Should she delay in order to wait for evidence this could be held against her as often refugee board members refuse claims because of such delays, even if for a good reason.
Post-Claim Remedies: Sabreen’s initial claim was refused once when she made it in 2006. Under the current system, rejected claimants get an appeal to the Refugee Appeal Division, which is an important safeguard to ensure that those in need of protection are not wrongly denied it. However, as a DCO claimant under the current system, Sabreen would be cut out of the appeal to the Refugee Appeal Division. She could only seek leave of the Federal Court to review the decision. In the past, while her lawyer was able to convince a judge of that Court that the refugee judge made an error in determining that the Israeli police would protect her, under the current system she would be much less likely to win in Court. The Minister has designated Israel as a country that does protect people, such that they do not need to seek international protection. And, Sabreen may well have had to proceed with her claim under the new system without being given enough time to get the evidence to present to the Refugee Division that the police do not protect women in her situation.
Another safeguard that has existed for many years is the end stage consideration of a person’s claim for protection before she is required to leave Canada. This program, the ‘pre-removal risk assessment’ (PRRA), would not be available to Sabreen. As a national of a DCO country, she would be ineligible to apply under the PRRA for three years from the time her refugee claim was refused. The CBSA would more than likely arrange for her removal back to Israel long before the three year time period had passed.
Finally, even if Sabreen did apply to the Federal Court to review a negative decision of the Refugee Division, she would not have statutory protection from removal while her application was before the Court. Under the previous system, rejected refugee claimants, other than those who had been specifically found not to have a credible basis for their refugee claim by the Refugee Division, were protected from removal while they sought judicial review in the Federal Court of the negative decisions. That statutory protection has been taken away for claimants from DCO’s. Under the current system, a rejected claimant from a DCO would have to bring a specific motion before the Federal Court for a stay of the execution of the removal order while the case is pending consideration by the Court. The success of such an application depends on a number of factors, including which judge hears the application, as individual judges differ in their approach to such orders. The removal of rejected claimants before a court has fully reviewed a refusal is not consistent with international protection norms. Rejected claimants are supposed to have an effective appeal remedy from an initial refusal.
Sabreen would face much greater difficulty in establishing her need for Canada’s protection. It is fair to say that she would be much more likely to be denied protection under the current system and could well be returned to face murder by the males in her family before a Canadian court had even reviewed the decision refusing her protection.