National Post

Saturday, February 20, 1999

Refugee program biased toward women: professor
Human Rights complaint: Dangers men face around world are no less dangerous, submission says

Philip Mathias
National Post

A University of Alberta professor will file a complaint on Monday with the Canadian Human Rights Commission against a new United Nations project that will speed women refugees and their children -- but not male refugees -- out of harm's way to Winnipeg.

Professor Ferrel Christensen's complaint will point out that the Canadian Human Rights Act prohibits "discriminatory practices based on sex in the provision of services.

"There is absolutely no justification for discrimination [in this matter]," the complaint will say.

Visas to enter Canada usually take months to obtain. Under the new "Women at Risk" program, if a woman in danger applies in her own country and has not received a Canadian visa in 72 hours, she and her children will be flown here on a minister's permit and their entry into Canada will be processed in Winnipeg.

When the women arrive, they'll be transferred to the care of agencies like the Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council, which will find host families to help with the transition to Canadian life.

"The important thing is for us to move them quickly and get them out of a dangerous area," Ann Lawler, spokeswoman for Citizenship and Immigration, said earlier this month. "We'll supply the funding," she said. The agencies "will help these people adjust to Winnipeg."

Ms. Lawler could not be reached for further comment.

"This is a particularly blatant example of a much wider pattern of discrimination against men," Prof. Christensen said. "Blatant examples are good for making official complaints about."

His submission to the Human Rights Commission will read, in part: "The politically based dangers which threaten the lives of men around the world are no less common or deadly than those which face women."

The complaint will ask that "the Immigration and Refugee Board be directed to make the "Women at Risk" program equally applicable to both sexes."

It will also ask that the Commission urge "those administering the program to exercise great care, lest anyone use it as a means of state-aided child abduction across international borders."

Prof. Christensen added: "This is a perfectly straightforward case of providing a service for women that is being deliberately denied to men.

"There are many other similar kinds of discrimination going on -- sometimes they're merely bureaucratic, they are never announced officially, and it's harder to prove and get action on them.

"The Immigration and Refugee Board has spent years focusing especially on helping women and is totally ignoring the kind of persecution that men are undergoing around the world," he said.

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