Refugees and people needing protection are people in or outside Canada who fear returning to their home country. In keeping with its humanitarian tradition and international obligations, Canada provides protection to thousands of people every year. Canada offers refugee protection to people in Canada who fear persecution or whose removal from Canada would subject them to a danger of torture, a risk to their life or a risk of cruel and unusual treatment or punishment.
Refugee claims in Canada
If you feel that you will be persecuted or otherwise at risk as mentioned above if you return to your home country, you may be able to seek protection in Canada as a refugee.
Refugee claims in Canada - Who can apply
Canada offers refugee protection to people in Canada who fear persecution and are unwilling or unable to return to their home country. People who are subject to a removal order cannot make a refugee claim.
Some people are not eligible to claim refugee protection in Canada. Officers receiving your refugee claim will decide whether it is eligible for referral to the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB), an independent administrative tribunal that makes decisions on immigration and refugee matters. The IRB decides who is a Convention refugee or a person in need of protection. Your refugee claim may not be eligible for referral to the IRB if:
- You have been recognized as a Convention refugee by another country to which you can return;
- You have already been granted protected person status in Canada;
- You arrived via the Canada-United States border (see Safe Third Country Agreement below);
- You are not admissible to Canada on security grounds, or because of criminal activity or human rights violations;
- You made a previous refugee claim that was found to be ineligible for referral to the IRB;
- You made a previous refugee claim that was rejected by the IRB; or
- You abandoned or withdrew a previous refugee claim.
The refugee system: Resettlement from outside Canada
Resettlement is the term used by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) to describe the legal process of bringing a refugee to Canada to live as a permanent resident. CIC relies on the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), other referral organizations and private sponsorship groups to identify and refer refugees for resettlement in Canada. Private sponsoring groups are groups or corporations that have signed an agreement with Canada’s Minister of Citizenship and Immigration. In this agreement, they promise to provide funds and carry out certain duties to sponsor refugees who come to Canada.
CIC uses two legal processes, which are divided into refugee classes, for resettling refugees in Canada. The refugee classes are:
- Convention Refugees Abroad Class
- Country of Asylum Class
Convention refugees abroad class
You are a Convention Refugee if you are outside your home country, or the country where you normally live, and can’t return to that country because of a well-founded fear of persecution based on:
- political opinion
- nationality or
- membership in a particular social group, such as women or people with a different sexual orientation.
Country of Asylum Class
The Country of Asylum Class is for people in refugee-like situations, who do not qualify as Convention refugees.
You are in the Country of Asylum Class if you:
- are outside your home country or the country where you normally live
- have been, and continue to be, seriously and personally affected by civil war or armed conflict, or have suffered massive violations of human rights
- cannot find an adequate solution to your situation within a reasonable period of time and
- will be privately sponsored or have the funds required to support yourself and your dependants.
The refugee system: Sponsoring refugees
Each year, millions of people around the world are forced to flee their homelands to escape persecution, war or severe human rights abuses. Often these people are never able to return home.
Groups and individuals can sponsor refugees from abroad who qualify to come to Canada. Sponsors are responsible for providing financial settlement assistance (except for Joint Assistance Sponsorship cases) for refugees once they arrive in Canada. Sponsors must also provide emotional and significant settlement assistance for the duration of the sponsorship period. Most sponsorships last for one year, but some refugees may be eligible to receive assistance from their sponsors for a longer period of time.
Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program
The Government of Canada helps thousands of refugees every year. The Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program gives Canadians and permanent residents an opportunity to get involved and help settle refugees in Canada. Sponsors are groups that commit to providing financial settlement assistance (except for Joint Assistance Sponsorship cases) to refugees for one year or until they can support themselves financially, whichever comes first. This assistance includes accommodation, clothing and food. In special cases, the sponsorship period can be extended for up to 36 months. Sponsors also provide emotional and significant settlement assistance to the refugees for the duration of the sponsorship period.
Refugees must qualify for entry under Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, and must pass medical and security screening before they are admitted to Canada. Visa officers abroad will review the application and may interview applicants to find out if they qualify. There are several ways that individual Canadians, permanent residents and organizations can get involved in helping refugees build a new life in Canada.
Joint Assistance Sponsorship
The Joint Assistance Sponsorship (JAS) program enables organizations to work in partnership with Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) to resettle refugees with special needs. These organizations are called sponsorship agreement holders and their constituent groups. A sponsorship agreement holder is an incorporated organization that has signed a sponsorship agreement with the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration.
Refugees with special needs often require more than one year of support to establish themselves successfully in Canada. These special needs may be related to:
- trauma because of violence or torture
- medical disabilities
- effects of systemic discrimination and
- gender persecution (women under the Women at Risk program).
- Refugees under the JAS program receive income support from the Government of Canada. They are also matched with a private sponsorship group.
Under the JAS program, government assistance is offered for up to 24 months, depending on the circumstances. Private sponsorship is offered for up to 24 months. In exceptional cases, the private sponsorship component can be extended up to 36 months. CIC provides financial assistance to cover the cost of food, shelter, clothing and essential household goods. Private sponsors provide help to refugees adjusting to life in Canada, significant settlement assistance and emotional support.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter and does not constitute legal advice. Immigration rules are constantly evolving and we do our best to keep you informed. MBC specialist advice should be sought regarding your specific circumstances. Email your comments or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org