Interview with Stewart Istvanffy from the American Association of Jurists

CCPR – Centre

Can you tell us more about the NGO you are working for and its main activities ?

Stewart Itvanffy

I’m the local president in Canada of the “Association américaine des juristes” the *AAJ* which is an association of left wing lawyers and jurists trough out the Americas largely concentrated in Latin America. We are concerned about issues of human rights, democratic development and rule of law after the start of military dictatorship in 1970s. In Canada we are concerned with refugees and the lack of respect for the rights of non-citizens.

CCPR – Centre

What are your main concerns regarding human rights in Canada ?

Stewart Itvanffy

Personally, I am an immigration and refugee lawyer in Canada and I’m very involved in international human rights litigation at the Committee Against Torture and the Human Rights Committee but I also have some experience of the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights. I’m very interested in is what happens to refugees whose asylum applications are refused, people who face torture and threats to their life if returned. Currently in Canada these people do not have a  viable legal recourse and this is why I’m here today, in order to talk to the Committee about this subject.

CCPR – Centre

Do you think the Committee addressed your concerns?

Stewart Itvanffy

They did address some of my concerns. One of my big concerns is that over the last year and a half, Canada has decided that they don’t have to respect interim measures issued by the Committee.  I have had two or three cases where people have been deported or who are now living underground, who are afraid for their life and suicidal after everything that has been done to them in their country.  I think it is important that the Committee will be looking at human rights in Canada. In particular, looking at the rights of indigenous peoples is fundamental as racism in Canada is racism against indigenous people.  But I also believe it is important to look at the rights of immigrants, migrants and refugees especially as there has been a steady attack on their rights for the last ten years in Canada. For example Canada has made it very easy to take away permanent residency status and also does not respect the principle of proportionality. They are deporting people who have been in Canada fifteen years or more for very small criminal offenses when, really, deportation is supposed to be an extreme penalty. In Canada, if you are not white like me and don’t have a permanent residence status they are capable of deporting people for very minor offenses.

CCPR – Centre

Did you know the CCPR-Centre before the review ?

Stewart Itvanffy

Yes, I did. I met Patrick, the Director, because of a case I was involved with at the end of 2013. The case involved a man from Chad who they were going to send back to Chad despite strong evidences that he would be put into danger there. The Human Rights Committee intervened to stop the deportation but unfortunately, in May of 2014, Canada decided that they would not respect the interim measures and now my client is now living underground in Canada. Through this I have got to know the Centre and I have seen the help that has been given to all the Canadians interacting with the Human Rights Committee I attend to keep in very close contact in the future.

CCPR – Centre

What can the CCPR-Centre improve to facilitate the participation of NGOs in the work of the Committee?

Stewart Itvanffy

It is extremely hard to say because I haven’t seen enough to comment in detail but I feel that assistance I have received has been good and I am pleased with all that the Center has done to help the whole Canadian delegation. It is hard for me to be critical without looking more closely and I have not been able to do that.

CCPR – Centre

Do you have anything more to say about the Centre or the human rights situation in Canada ?

Stewart Itvanffy

I am going to return to the subject of Canada and I would like to end by saying that I am very concerned about the current government in Canada and how they have abandoned our principle of respect for international law.  This government is one of the worst we have ever had in terms of human rights, in terms of lack of access to legal recourse and this is why someone like me is coming to Geneva. It is because the doors have been closed down in Canada both on the administrative level and by the Federal Court of Canada. There is no proper respect been given to the fundamental rights of migrants, immigrants, and refugees and there is a serious threat to human rights crisis and a humanitarian crisis in deportations right now.

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