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Refugees in Canada

Every person is entitled to protection from persecution. Canada has recognized this basic human right since 1951 when it signed the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (the Geneva Convention). The right to life, liberty and security of the person is also enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Refugee Determination

To be granted asylum in Canada as a refugee, a person must be outside his or her home country and have a well-founded fear of persecution. According to the Geneva Convention, the fear must not only be well-founded, the persecution must also be based on reasons of race, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion. However, a less restrictive interpretation of the feared persecution may also lead to refugee status. For example, Canada recognizes that women can be persecuted because of their gender and that the definition of a refugee should be interpreted to also include this form of persecution. A variety of circumstances can make a person a refugee.

Refugee Claim Process

Canada has obliged itself to protect genuine refugees, that is, not to send them back to persecution. People who get to Canada on their own can claim refugee protection at any border point, or inside Canada, at an immigration office. In conclusion, refugee claims are complex and there is always a lot at stake. It is always advisable for people seeking refugee protection to be represented by a competent Canadian attorney with expertise in this particular area of the law. Through its refugee protection system, Canada offers safe haven to persons with a well-founded fear of persecution, as well as those at risk of torture or cruel and unusual treatment or punishment. Canada's refugee protection system consists of two main components:

  • The Refugee and Humanitarian Resettlement Program, for people seeking protection from outside Canada; and
  • Asylum in Canada, for persons making refugee protection claims from within Canada.

Resettling Refugees in Canada

The Canadian federal government helps refugees resettle in Canada. The Refugee and Humanitarian Resettlement Program allows Canada to uphold its humanitarian tradition. In addition to government efforts, private sponsorships enable organizations and groups of individuals to assist refugees and other people in similar circumstances to rebuild their lives in Canada.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) selects refugees who are seeking resettlement in Canada. To be eligible, refugees must not have another resettlement option within a reasonable time. Before accepting a person as a refugee, CIC will make sure that person cannot go home to their country of nationality or usual residence or stay in the country where they have been given asylum. CIC will also look to see if there is another country where refugees can resettle.

Persons selected for resettlement undergo medical, security and criminality screening. They must also show that they will eventually be able to re-establish themselves in Canada.

Refugee Protection in Canada

Canada offers protection to people in Canada who are afraid of returning to their home country. A claim for protection can be made at a port of entry or at a Canada Immigration Centre (CIC) office in Canada. Once a CIC officer decides that a refugee protection claimant is eligible to be referred, the claim is sent to the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) for a decision on the risk on return.

Protection is conferred when the IRB determines that they are a Convention refugee or person in need of protection.

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