Stephen Seaborn, ILGA board member representing ILGA North America read the following statement on behalf of ILGA Thursday September 19 2013 at the 24th Session of the Human Rights Council .
Watch it here (Chapter 21 – 00:47:06)
24th Session of the Human Rights Council
Item 6, UPR Report Canada
19 September 2013
Declaration from ILGA, International Lesbian and Gay Association.
Declaration read by Stephen Patrick Seaborn
The following declaration is also read on behalf of the Canadian organisation Egale Canada.
First, let me say that we applaud the Canadian Government for its participation in the Universal Periodic Review process and recognize Canada’s commitment to a “generous system [which] provides asylum to persons in need of international protection”. [A/HRC/24/11 paragraph 12, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review – Canada]
The Netherlands input to Canada’s UPR pointed to the importance of applying the 2006 Yogyakarta Principles in further policy development. Egale Canada in its October 2012 submission to this Council, pointed out the shortcomings of Canada’s 2012 Act to Amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (Bill 31).
However, the provisions of this Act are now putting countless asylum-seekers from close to 80 states at severe risk and in our estimation these provisions are not in line with the Yogykarta Principles.
Refugees from so-called “safe countries of origin” who claim persecution based on their sexual orientation or gender identity face refugee hearings that are now dangerously fast-tracked, with inadequate time to gather evidence of their “persecution”. Moreover, these refugees now have no right to appeal a decision that has rejected their refugee claim.
Furthermore, the refugee reforms have given the Immigration Minister sole responsibility to designate countries as “safe” for the purposes of reviewing these particular refugee claims.
We firmly believe that the power to designate countries as “safe” for refugee claim assessment purposes must be immediately transferred from Canada’s Immigration Minister to an independent expert panel.
Belarus has asked Canada to “ensure the protection of refugees, migrants and members of their families in full compliance with international standards” [A/HRC/24/11 paragraph 128.147]. Currently Canada would sincerely like to support Russian sexual minorities who are seeking asylum. However, to provide genuine support for such refugees Canada must ensure that LGBTI families are granted equitable access to its refugee system.
The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act must then be amended to recognize same sex spouses and LGBTI parents who currently are not recognized by their countries of origin but would, under Canadian law, be recognized.
Should Canada fail to make the changes suggested in this declaration it will, unfortunately, remain in violation of International Human Rights Law as laid out in the Yogyakarta Principles.
Stephen Seaborn is Vice President and chairs the Solidarity & Pride Committee of the Ontario Federation of Labour, a Canadian organization which represents one million workers belonging to more than 1,500 locals from 54 affiliated unions. He is a founding member of the Pink Triangle Committee of the Canadian Union of Public Employees in Ontario and is the Vice President (Equity) of that union’s council in Canada’s largest city, Toronto. Stephen is a cultural worker with North America’s longest running labour arts festival where he coordinates the infusion of performance and the arts for organizations committed to LGBTQI rights, equality and social justice.
Stephen has been on the board of ILGA-North America from December 2010 first as alternate board members and currently as co-chair since ILGA’s last world conference in Stockholm in December 2012.