Refugee lawyers speak out on federal election campaign rhetoric

Candidates and party leaders should commit to civil discourse when discussing refugees, letter says

Refugee lawyers speak out on federal election campaign rhetoric
Maureen Silcoff

Lawyer Maureen Silcoff, president of the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, was among signatories featured in an Amnesty International letter about how immigrants may be characterized during the federal election.

Silcoff said in the letter that candidates and party leaders should “commit to civil discourse when discussing refugees and migrants in the upcoming election.”

“Canadians expect the ideas and words expressed to reflect respect for our shared humanity,” Silcoff’s statement said.

Among other concerns, the letter says that “Canada has legal obligations to respect and uphold the human rights of those fleeing persecution.” The letter was sent by more than 150 organizations to all federal parties in June and released by Amnesty International on Sept. 12.

Black Legal Action Centre also signed the letter, as did a Vancouver -based law group.

“We welcome thoughtful discussion on complex issues related to migration, and recognize that there are many legitimate perspectives,” said the letter. “We are also conscious that refugees and migrants are easily victimized in political debates. In many countries around the world, especially during election campaigns, refugees and migrants have been talked about in ways that insult their dignity and humanity, contribute to xenophobia and racism, and are frequently grounded in distortion and misinformation.”

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