Corralled and Sent Home

July 6th, 2006

Over the Canada Day long weekend, I wrote a letter to the Montreal Gazette in response to their editorial about Yves Bourbonnais, the former Immigration and Refugee Board appeals division judge who has pleaded guilty of receiving bribes. I’d like to elaborate on a few of the points I raised in the Gazette.

The editorial in the Gazette suggested that some of Bourbonnais’ past decisions as a judge should be reviewed, and that those people who paid him bribes to stay in Canada should be ‘corralled and sent home’.

Unfortunately, the editorial also seems to ignore the cases where the opposite is true; that is, cases where people with valid refugee or immigration claims did not pay a bribe to Bourbonnais and were subsequently ‘corralled and sent home’. If justice is to be served, shouldn’t all of Bourbonnais’ decisions be reviewed?

In many refugee cases, applicants are allowed to remain in Canada if they have a legitimate fear of persecution back home. What if many of the cases presented before Bourbounnais were from applicants with a credible fear of persecution but a lack of money with which to influence Bourbonnais’ decisions? If that is indeed the case, we ought to bring back to Canada those who were unfairly deported.

And perhaps reviewing Bourbonnais’ cases is not enough. Since the new Immigration and Refugee Act was enacted in 2002, all refugee appeals are now heard by a single judge rather than a panel as done in the past. While it is true that Bourbonnais’ violations occurred under the old legislation, his story is still a cautionary tale for the use of a single judge in cases involving refugee claimants who are at the mercy of Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board.

Having more than one judge review a case is an excellent protection against corruption. That’s important, because corrupt judges don’t only let unscrupulous characters stay in Canada; they also ‘corral and send home’ those who deserve to stay.

Blog written by David Cohen on Thursday, July 06, 2006

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