Seek Protection in Canada
Who is an Asylum Seeker, a Refugee Claimant, a Refugee
- Canada’s refugee program is based on the UN Convention for Refugees signed in 1951. A Protocol signed in 1967 defined who qualifies as a refugee.
- An asylum seeker is someone who is needing to make a refugee claim.
- After a claim has been accepted the person becomes a refugee claimant.
- When the claim is proved the person becomes a refugee.
- A refugee is someone who has a well-founded fear of being persecuted on account of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of their nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail him/herself of the protection of that country.
- In Canada, “a particular social group” includes lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender individuals.
Already in Canada
If someone who is already in Canada as a visitor, a student or a worker and is afraid to go back to their country, the person can make a refugee claim.
IMPORTANT: If at all possible, connect with an organization that assists refugees BEFORE you go to CIC.
- You go to a Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) office.
- It is important to tell the person at reception that you want to make a refugee claim.
- Usually, they will give you an appointment for later.
- At the appointment, an officer will interview you; ask questions to see if you are eligible to make a claim.
- The officer will take all your documents. Ask for a photocopy of them and a copy of the notes of the interview.
- The officer also issues a conditional removal order.
- If you are found to be eligible the officer will give you a package containing several forms.
- You must complete these forms before you go back to CIC.
Arriving at the Airport
If you arrive at the airport as an asylum seeker, tell the first officer you talk to that you want to make a refugee claim.
- An immigration office will take you to a meeting room in the airport for an interview to find out if you are eligible to make a claim.
- At the airport, the immigration officer will decide if you are eligible to make a refugee claim.
- If you have proper identity documents and are found to be eligible, the officer will usually let you go.
- The officer will keep all your documents. Ask for a photocopy of them and a copy of the notes of the interview.
- The officer also issues a conditional removal order.
- An officer will give you a package, including a Basis of Claim Form (BOC).
Designated Countries of Origin (DCO)
The Minister of Immigration has the authority to name countries that he or she does not believe are refugee producing countries. If you are from one of these countries and make a refugee claim either at a POE or in Canada your claim is treated differently.
- If you make your claim when you arrive in Canada, you will have your hearing in 45 days
- If you make your claim in Canada you will have your hearing in 30 days
- If you lose your claim you can ask for a judicial review by the Federal Court. You cannot appeal to the Refugee Appeal Division.
- Even if you have filed for a review, this does not mean your deportation is automatically put on hold. You might not be able to stay in Canada while you are waiting for a decision. Your lawyer has to apply to the Federal Court to ask for a “stay.”
Currently, the following countries are on the list:
- Australia............ Austria............ Belgium............ Chile
- Croatia............ Cyprus............ Czech Republic............ Denmark
- Estonia............ Finland............ France............ Germany
- Greece............ Hungary............ Iceland............ Ireland
- Israel (excludes Gaza and the West Bank)............ Italy............ Japan
- Latvia............ Lithuania............ Luxembourg............ Malta
- Mexico............ Netherlands............ Poland............ Portugal
- Slovenia............ Spain............ Sweden
- United Kingdom............ United States
The Minister of Public Safety can designate a group as an 'irregular arrival' for one of these reasons:
- The Minister has reasonable grounds to suspect that there is human smuggling or trafficking and that a criminal organization or terrorist group is involved.
- The border authorities are not able to interview the group members about their identity or admissibility to Canada or to investigate them in a timely way.
- The Minister can make this designation when the group arrives or after the group arrives in Canada.
Consequences of being an irregular arrival:
- Automatic detention
- If decision is negative; No possible appeal – IRB decision is final; Removal immediate
- If decision is positive; Must wait for 5 years to apply for Permanent Residence; Cannot apply to sponsor family for 5 years; Cannot get a travel document
At a Land Border
You cannot come to the border between Canada and the United States and make a refugee claim. This is because the countries have signed an agreement called the Safe Third Country Agreement. If you try to do this you will be ineligible. You do have the right to ask to do the Pre Removal Risk Assessment.
There are a few exceptions to the Agreement.
- If you have a close family member in Canada
- If you are an unaccompanied minor (under 18)
Getting a Lawyer
You have the right to have a lawyer to help you fill out the BOC. Who you get for a lawyer is important. Ask if the lawyer has represented lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender clients before.
- In many parts of Canada there is something called Legal Aid. http://canadaonline.about.com/od/legalaid/Legal_Aid_in_Canada.htm
- Find out where the office is in the province where you make your claim.
- Apply for help.
- If you cannot get Legal Aid, there might be community services that can help.
There are several forms that you must complete. Some of them are for Immigration, another for Canada Border Services and one for the Refugee Board. http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/information/applications/protection.asp
- Generic Application IMM0008
- Background/Declaration Schedule A
- Additional Information Schedule 12
- Basis of Claim (BOC) NOTE: This is a very important form.
Preparing for your hearing
- While you are waiting, you can help your case by looking for evidence about your country to support your claim.
- Before the hearing, your lawyer sends documents that will help your case .
- In Vancouver, you can make an appointment to see the refugee offices and the hearing room.
You will have a hearing to decide if you are a convention refugee or a person in need of protection.
- Your lawyer gets a letter giving the date of the hearing.
- Your lawyer also gets a paper outlining the points they will ask questions about.
- Your lawyer helps you prepare for the hearing.
- On the day, you meet your lawyer at the refugee office.
- There will be a Decision Maker and an interpreter if you need one. At first, your lawyer and the Decision Maker spend a few minutes reviewing the documents.
- The Decision Maker begins asking questions. After that your lawyer has a chance to ask you questions.
- Everything is recorded so that there is a record of what was said. This recording may help you later.
- Sometimes the Decision Maker decides that they have enough information and gives a decision at the end of the hearing before you leave.
- Sometimes you have to wait and you will get your answer in a letter.
After the Hearing
- If you get a positive decision – you can apply to become a Permanent Resident.
- If you get a negative decision, you may have other options.
If you are an asylum seeker experiencing persecution because of your sexual orientation or gender identity, are afraid and you cannot get to Canada or any other safe country there is still something you can do.
- In most situations you must leave your home country and go to a neighbouring country.
- There, you must go to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. They will give you an appointment.
- They will interview you and decide if you are a Convention Refugee. They will give you a certificate.
- With that certificate you can go to an Embassy, Consulate or High Commission.
- If you want to be resettled in Canada, you go to the Canadian Embassy, Consulate or High Commission.
- It may take several years for this process to be finished.
- You could become a Government Sponsored Refugee (GAR)
- You could be sponsored by people in Canada.
Arriving in Canada
- When you arrive, you will become a Permanent Resident and be welcomed to Canada.
- Someone will meet you at the airport.
- You will be taken to a place to stay while you find a place to stay.
- You will have money for your basic needs.
- Generally, you will be supported for a year.
- You will be able to see doctors.
- There are English or French classes, if you need to learn or improve your language.
- There will be people to help you settle in the country.
Asylum Seeker - someone who is looking for another country where they can live safely
Conditional Removal Order - this is issued when a person makes a refugee claim. If you win your claim, it is destroyed. It is only used if you lose, abandon or withdraw your claim
Convention Refugee - is a person who is outside their home country or the country where they normally live, and who are unwilling to return 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 of a particular sexual orientation or gender identity.
Decision Maker – the title of the person who will hear your case and make the decision. Decision Makers are public servants.
Eligibility - the first interview is to see if you are eligible to make a claim in Canada. Most people are eligible. People are not eligible if:
- They have been recognized as a Convention refugee by another country and can be returned to that country.
- They have made a refugee claim in Canada before.
- They are a security risk, including serious crimes, crimes against humanity
Government Sponsored Refugee (GAR) – After an asylum seeker has applied to be resettled in Canada, they could be sponsored by the Canadian Government, which will support the refugee for 1 year.
Legal Aid – A program of the government which pays for a lawyer for people who don’t have enough money to pay for one themselves.
Permanent Resident - someone who can live and work in Canada; there are some requirements to continue being a permanent resident.
Person in Need of Protection - a person in Canada whose removal to their home country or country where they normally live would subject them personally to:
- a danger of torture;
- a risk to their life; or a risk of cruel and unusual treatment or punishment.
POE - Port of Entry (either a land border or airport)
Refugee Claimant - a person who is eligible to make a refugee claim in Canada
Safe Third Country – there is an agreement between Canada & the United States. This says that a person seeking refugee protection must make a claim in the first country they arrive in (United States or Canada) so a person cannot come to the land border between the two countries and make a refugee claim. They have to make the claim in the first country they arrive in.
Tribunal Officer – is a person who is sometimes at a refugee hearing. This person represents the Minister of Immigration. If there is one at your hearing he or she will ask the questions first.
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