I have been asked several times how it can be the case that the Balanced Refugee Reform Act (BRRA) which was to be in force in June 2012 can be extended beyond that date.  For those of you involved in the refugee field you will recall that the legislation was originally scheduled for implementation in December 2011.  One suspects, in light of the fairly radical amendments in Bill C-31, the government may have intentionally delayed implementation in anticipation of a majority government where the government could make the changes without any constraints.

In any event, to answer the narrow question about implementation, the new legislation, Bill C-31, contains an amendment to the BRRA which would provide the government with the freedom to delay implementation of the BRRA until the Minister sees fit.  This removes any possibility that the legislation will die for lack of implementation by the June 2012.  This also entails that Bill C-31 gains Royal Assent prior to June 29, 2012.

Bill C-31 contains many amendments to the BRRA which radically alter the refugee law landscape.  These include, but are not limited to,

a)  The exclusion from the new Refugee Appeal Division (RAD) of countries the Minister designates as “safe countries”.  Refugees from such countries would be limited to Judicial Review applications.  It is noteworthy that such applications will not automatically result in a “stay” of removal as is the case under the present legislation.  In theory, a claimant could be removed, despite the fact that the claimant has substantive merit to the Judicial Review.  One presumes such a provision will be challenged as it rasises the possibility Canada could “refoul” a claimant without finally determining their claim.

b) The Minister’s power to designate “safe countries” will be made independently of any objective commission to determine which countries fit the criteria.

c) Failed refugee claimants would be barred from making H&C claims within one year of their negative decisions.  This bar is significant because H&C claims take into consideration issues of harm rather than risk and therefore are matters which in some cases will be unrelated to the refugee claim.