Canada law firms urge government to assist Afghan evacuees

In an open letter, 21 Canadian laws firms Monday urged the government to “respond meaningfully to the crisis in Afghanistan.” The letter calls on the Canadian government to “satisfy fully its promise of resettlement – effectively, efficiently, and without delay.”

The letter addressed to the government by a group of Canadian national and regional law firms highlighted the perils of the Taliban’s rapid advance across Afghanistan and the fear and desperation Afghans face amid the conflict. It pointed out that governments have struggled to respond effectively to a resurgent Taliban which now reportedly has access to government and legal records which disclose sensitive information about lawyers, judges and other individuals who worked alongside Canada and its allies.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced in October 2021 that Canada would resettle 40,000 Afghans. The letter notes that, although this decision was heartening, many members of the legal community who have provided legal services to the Government of Canada continue to face the threat of retaliation by the Taliban.

The letter recommends various steps that the Canadian government can take to aid Afghan evacuees: devoting resources to rapidly review the accumulated backlog of resettlement applications; coordinating the work of the various authorities involved in immigration and public safety with Canadians who are knowledgeable about the situation “on the ground” both in Canada and in Afghanistan; tailoring resettlement policies and programs to the circumstances of this crisis and easing resettlement requirements wherever possible.

A December 2020 letter from Canadian parliamentarian Marcus Powlowski to Cabinet ministers urged the Canadian government to start offering Canadian Armed Forces mission members safe passage to Canada eight months before the Taliban took over Afghanistan. Canada has maintained a 13-year mission in Afghanistan to oust the Taliban regime. The mission was aided by Afghan nationals serving as interpreters, fixers, security guards and embassy staff who are now susceptible to persecution by the Taliban for helping allied forces.

About 7,550 Afghan refugees have arrived in Canada since August 2021, and 4,470 Afghans who assisted the Canadian government have arrived in Canada under the government-assisted refugee program.