New immigration detention bill could give Australia a fresh chance to comply with international law

Of interest:

Last week, independent MP Andrew Wilkie reintroduced to federal parliament the Ending Indefinite and Arbitrary Immigration Detention Bill 2022. This bill gives Australia the chance to bring its immigration detention regime in line with basic international law requirements for the first time since 1992.Wilkie’s bill presents a timely opportunity for the new federal government to reform a regime that leading legal and human rights organisations have called “inhumane, unnecessary, and unlawful”.

Australia’s human rights commitment

Australia has committed to uphold human rights and protect refugees, including committing to not arbitrarily or indefinitely detain adults or children. Despite this, under Australia’s current mandatory detention regime, non-citizens without a valid visa must be detained as a first resort for potentially indefinite periods and without access to review by a court.Australia’s commitments under international law are not enforceable under Australian law unless they are implemented through legislation. This means that in the absence of legislation that fully protects the right to liberty, the Australian High Court has consistently held that indefinite immigration detention is lawful under Australian law.

International criticism

The UN has repeatedly condemned Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers and refugees as contrary to Australia’s international obligations and “an affront to the protection of human rights”. This includes statements and decisions from:

  • UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet in 2018
  • the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, François Crépeau, in 2017
  • the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Juan E. Méndez, in 2015 and 2017
  • UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi in 2017
  • The UN Human Rights Committee in 2013.

International criticisms have largely focused on Australia’s failure to respect the rights of individuals to not be detained arbitrarily or indefinitely; subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment; or returned to a place where they will face a real risk of harm.Despite widespread condemnation of Australia’s system of mandatory and indefinite detention, over 1400 people remain in onshore immigration detention facilities today. A further 217 people remain on Nauru and Manus.In April 2022, the average period of time people were held in immigration detention facilities in Australia was 726 days. Of those in onshore detention, 136 have been detained for more than five years.

“Detention without charge or guilt”

Wilkie’s bill proposes abolishing the existing system of mandatory detention. Under the bill, detention of non-citizens without valid visas could only be ordered where it is necessary and proportionate to the circumstances. This would require an individual assessment.Detention would be authorised in Australia only (not offshore) for certain purposes, and only as a measure of last resort after all alternatives have been considered. Adults could only be detained for a maximum of three months and children for seven days. While extensions may be necessary in certain circumstances, detention would be subject to independent oversight and judicial review by the courts.When introducing the bill, Wilkie argued this legislation was urgently needed as

we face the bizarre and outrageous situation in this country where someone, in some circumstances, can be detained indefinitely, without charge and without having been found guilty of anything.

He described this as a punitive arrangement that is immoral and shows “a terrible indifference and arrogance to international law”.In seconding the bill, independent MP Kylea Tink said“Australia’s immigration regime is unique in the world. It is uniquely cruel.” Tink also noted Wilkie’s point that the regime came with a vast financial and human toll, costing Australian taxpayers between $360,000 – $460,000 per year to hold a person in immigration detention in Australia.Independent MP Monique Ryan recognised that

Australia’s immigration detention regime causes severe and widespread mental and physical health impacts on people seeking refuge.

Australia’s negative human rights record also affects its ability to hold other countries to account for human rights violations. China accused Australia of human rights hypocrisy after it criticised China’s repression of the Uyghur ethnic minority. And China is certainly not alone in its criticisms.While legislation alone is not enough, it could provide a significant first step in bringing Australia’s immigration detention regime in line with its human rights obligations.Both major political parties in Australia have historically supported onshore and offshore mandatory detention of non-citizens.However, with the current make-up of the parliament and a new government committed to uniting Australians around “our shared values of fairness and opportunity” and “kindness to those in need”, this is an opportunity for Australia to demonstrate a renewed commitment to international law and the fundamental principles on which the UN system is based.

Source: New immigration detention bill could give Australia a fresh chance to comply with international law

Bloc to promote bill on French-language proficiency for new citizens

Virtue signalling, given that citizenship is exclusively under federal jurisdiction. Challenge for Liberal, CPC and NDP Quebec MPs and will see if any pander to this bill:

The Bloc Québécois will get to debate a bill Thursday that would require anyone applying for Canadian citizenship in Quebec to demonstrate functional proficiency in French.

Bloc Leader Yves-François Blanchet says that familiarity with the official language of Quebec is essential amid what he calls an ongoing threat to the mother tongue of most Quebecers.

Currently, most applicants must demonstrate a professional proficiency in either English or French to qualify for citizenship, but a private member’s bill Bloc MP Sylvie Bérubé introduced in February would change that to require French for immigrants who have settled in Quebec.

The chance to debate the legislation comes after Montreal Liberal MP Emmanuella Lambropoulos told the House of Commons official languages committee last week that the idea of a French-language decline is a “myth.”

She reversed her comments following a social media backlash, saying in a statement Saturday her remarks were “insensitive,” that French is in decline and that she hopes to find ways to protect it.

Blanchet said some Liberals threw Lambropoulos “under the bus” in calling her out for her initial remarks, and suggested the governing party was hypocritical in its professed concern for the state of the French language.

“What is insensitive actually is the reaction of the rest of her caucus,” Blanchet said Wednesday. “She probably said out loud what many of them do think.

“I strongly doubt that when they have private conversations in the corners of their caucus they say, ‘Oh, French is in a bad situation.'”

Meanwhile, reports of a recent tweet — since deleted — by Chelsea Craig, the Quebec director of the federal Liberal party, referring to the province’s 43-year-old language law as “oppressive” fanned the regional firestorm.

Craig posted a subsequent message to Twitter on Wednesday stressing that Bill 101 is important and stating in French that “French is declining in Quebec and it must be protected.”

But the damage was done. For the third day in a row, Bloc and Conservative MPs hammered the Trudeau government with questions about the state of the French language in Canada.

“It makes no sense,” Conservative MP Alain Rayes said in French during question period in the House of Commons Wednesday afternoon.

“Will the prime minister immediately condemn her disrespectful comments?”

Blanchet asked Trudeau whether he agreed with Craig.

“Does the prime minister of Canada believe that Bill 101 is ‘oppressive’ against the English in Quebec” Blanchet asked in French.

The prime minister replied that the government supports the law — known as the Charter of the French Language — and recognizes that in a bilingual Canada, Quebec “must be first and foremost French-speaking.”

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said Wednesday he supports stronger laws to protect French, adding that the government needs to provide more educational tools to foster language development.

Source: Bloc to promote bill on French-language proficiency for new citizens

Anti-terror bill: Can government balance security and civil rights?

The debate continues over the scope over the Government’s plans to introduce a bill with new measures on Friday:

The ideological debate is summarized by University of Ottawa national security law expert Craig Forcese.

“A risk-minimizing society would permit mass detentions in the expectation that the minimal increase in public safety from the dragnet would outweigh the massive injury to civil liberties,” he writes.

“A rights-maximizing society, however, would deny the state the power to detain except through conventional criminal proceedings, for which it would impose demanding standards, even at the risk of leaving people free whose intent and capacity are clear but whose terrorist acts lie in the future.”

In a recent statement to the Citizen, Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien said: “Canadians want to be safe, but they also care profoundly about their privacy rights.

“Horrific attacks on innocent people obviously raise concerns about safety. But I was struck by the fact that, immediately after the attacks in Ottawa and in Paris, many people were talking about the importance of also protecting democratic rights such as free speech and privacy.

“Security is essential to maintain democratic rights, but our national security responses to acts of terror must be proportionate and designed in a way that protects the democratic values that are pillars of our Canadian society.”

Anti-terror bill: Can government balance security and civil rights? | Ottawa Citizen.