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Litigating Against Harper: Refugee Advocates in the Courts

Dagmar Soennecken, Associate Professor, School of Public Policy and Administration, Department of Social Science, York University

Chris Anderson, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, Laurier University

Published April 20, 2018 by Technologies of Justice.

During the Technologies of Justice Conference session titled Immigration Law and Refugee Issues Under the Microscope, Dagmar Soennecken and Chris Anderson presented a talk entitled Litigating Against Harper; Refugee Advocates in the Courts. The conference took place from January 26 to 27, 2018 at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology.



Soennecken and Anderson wrote a paper-based review on some of the cases in the Harper government’s litigation against refugee advocates in the courts. In their presentation they explained how they were originally looking to demystify cases such as the Singh case by reflecting and looking at period the Harper government was in power, and the government's rights-restrictive approach at that time.
Dagmar and Chris experimented with injecting sociolegal discourse into a political science conversation and bringing often overlooked or taken-for-granted research to the forefront. They brought up questions such as, "What is the reason for the lure to the courts even though the avenues are limited?" and "How can we create a shift in accessible resources available to refugees based on their move to the courts?" The researchers also showed how a rights-restrictive approach was a foundational shift in refugee rights, which included the effort to shift refugee rights to a discretionary basis. They also looked at the Harper government’s policies and views on visas, travel, refugee claims, the immigration system, and the removal of appeal options.

They found it was very difficult to remain in Canada during the Harper government, and that there was a large-scale demonization of left-leaning or refugee advocates in government and media at the time. They asked, "Is legal mobilization worth pursuing against refuted refugee claims in the advocacy community?" They looked for the existence of access, resources, protection and availability of rights internally that were promised internationally.

They concluded by highlighting the need for policy change and community effort to happen both incrementally and through each other.