The 1985 Singh Decision Disaster vs. The 1985 Air India Disaster

The 1985 Singh Decision Disaster vs. The 1985 Air India Disaster


For the past week, Canadians have had their attention focussed on the 1985 Air India tragedy. Two Sikh men, charged with placing explosives aboard the Air India flight and killing 329 people, were acquitted after a long trial. This was the largest mass murder in Canadian history.

However, Canadians have to be reminded of a major 1985 Supreme Court verdict which has had a massive impact on the country. Known as the Supreme Court's “Singh Decision”, it has probably been the major cause of over 500,000 refugee claimants arriving here since it was made, says Immigration Watch Canada. In the words of Former Deputy Minister of Immigration John Manion, the Singh Decision has resulted in Canada losing its ability “to control our borders and is gravely eroding our sovereignty”.

In 1981, in the Pre-Singh Decision period, 3450 refugee claims were made in Canada. In 1987, two years after the Singh Decision, over 25,000 refugee claims were made. Also in 1987, a backlog of 85,000 refugee claimants had accumulated and these people were given amnesty. In 2001, about 46,000 refugee claims were made.

It is estimated that, combined with subsequent refugee sponsoring of relatives, Canada's refugee system has allowed between 1 to 2 million people to enter Canada since 1989.

Experts generally agree that the effects of the 1985 Singh Decision have been far-reaching. Canada's refugee system has turned into a back-door into Canada, it has fueled people-smuggling rings and it has ignored the real refugees in the world.

The following are some facts about the Singh Decision (taken partly from Charles Campbell's book “Betrayal and Deceit: The Politics of Canadian Immigration”; and CPC MP Art Hanger's 1994 research paper, “The Singh Decision and Canadian Refugee Determination Policy”). Mr. Campbell served for 10 years on the Immigration Appeal Board (a predecessor of the current Immigration and Refugee Board), eight as Vice-Chairman. Mr. Hanger is a current MP.

(1) The Singh Decision was a verdict of the 1985 6-member Supreme Court of Canada. A Mr. Singh had been denied refugee status by the Minister on the advice of the Refugee Status Advisory Committee.

(2) The Immigration Appeal Board denied subsequent applications for redetermination, and the Federal Court of Appeal refused his application for a judicial review of the decision.

(3) Mr. Singh's lawyer claimed that his client's rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and under the Canadian Bill of Rights had been violated. His case and those of six other individuals in similar situations were heard together. Mr. Singh and five others were Sikhs from the Punjab. The other five had also claimed Convention Refugee status. All six said they feared persecution by Indian authorities as a result of their political activities and beliefs. They were associated with the Akali Dal Party which was demanding independence for the Punjab. The seventh claimant was a woman from Guyana.

(4) Lawyers based their appeal on the meaning of the words “everyone” or “a person” in Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms. They claimed that since their clients were in Canada, they (like Canadian citizens) should be entitled to the protection of the Charter and Bill.

(5) The Singh Decision was a landmark ruling because it stated that the words “everyone” or ” person” included refugee claimants. John Manion, former Deputy Minister of Immigration, has said that the authors of the Charter intended the words “everyone” and “person” to refer only to Canadian citizens. However, the justices involved in making the Singh Decision ruled that these two words meant anyone physically on Canadian soil, including people who had arrived here and made refugee claims shortly after their arrival.

(6) The Singh Decision also entitled all refugee claimants to a “hearing” of their claim. Three of the six Justices said this meant an “oral hearing”. The other three said a claimant could have either an oral hearing or make a written statement of his claim.

(7) Experts have viewed the Singh Decision in different ways. John Manion characterized the decision as “a disaster”. On the other hand, MP Art Hanger argued in his 1994 research that, “The Singh Decision left “open the possibility of removing, without a hearing, all persons claiming refugee status who arrive from safe third countries.”

In Mr. Hanger's opinion, “The right to a full and fair hearing is intended to apply only in the event that the security of the person of the refugee claimants is definitely in danger”. This security could be determined by simply looking at the country from which the person arrived. If it was “safe” (that is, if it had a well-established record of respecting human rights), then the person could and should be removed from Canada and returned to the “safe” country.

(8) Since the time Mr. Hanger wrote this opinion, immigration lawyers and advocates have convinced the federal government that it must negotiate agreements with other countries before it can declare those countries “safe”. This has made it extremely difficult to return claimants to countries which would be classified by most standards as “safe”.

(9) As interpreted in the late 1980's, the Singh Decision resulted in the establishment of the Immigration and Refugee Board in 1989. Most experts agree this has proved to be a very expensive and cumbersome mistake. In Mr. Hanger's opinion, it has been “a monstrous failure”. Charles Campbell has said the Immigration and Refugee Board should be eliminated. In his seasoned view, the current process should be returned to experienced immigration officers who would hold an oral hearing with each claimant at point of entry.

Senior civil servants such as Mr. Manion estimate refugee claimant expenditures alone cost Canadians around $2 Billion per year. Since 2000, Canada has averaged 30,000+ refugee claimants per year. Since 1989, total costs have been in the $30 Billion range.

(10) Since the IRB was established, all cases have gone before them–even the most obviously fraudulent. No allowance has been made to distinguish between genuine and false refugee claims. No attention has been paid to the fact that many claimants had actually not arrived from their supposedly “unsafe home countries”, but had actually been living in one or more “safe” countries. From these places, they had made their way to Canada. Critics have referred to this practice as “asylum shopping” because the people involved were looking for the “easiest system”, that is, the country which would grant them refugee status with the least difficulty and the one that would provide the most generous benefits.

(11) Those countries currently sending the largest number of immigrants to Canada (India and China) are also those sending the largest number of refugee claimants.

(12) Immigration Minister Joe Volpe has recently stated that he estimates that there are currently 120,000 illegals living in Canada. During a late February trip to Vancouver, he stated that his department is considering an amnesty for these illegals. It is highly likely that many of these illegals are former refugee claimants whose claims were denied, but who have ignored orders to leave or have gone into hiding. It is also highly likely that the number of illegals has been deliberately underestimated. Experts point to past amnesties of illegals to show that amnesties are extremely foolish because they encourage other illegals and people making frivolous refugee claims to come to Canada.