The refugee system in Canada
Tradition of humanitarian action
Our compassion and fairness are a source of great pride for Canadians.
These values are at the core of our domestic refugee protection system and our resettlement program. Both programs have long been praised by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR).
Refugees are people who have fled their countries because of a well-founded fear of persecution, and who are therefore unable to return home. Many refugees come from war-torn countries and have seen unthinkable horrors.
A refugee is different from an immigrant, in that an immigrant is a person who chooses to settle permanently in another country. Refugees are forced to flee.
Canadian refugee protection programs
The Canadian refugee system has two main parts:
I- Refugee status from inside Canada: the In-Canada Asylum Program for people making refugee protection claims from within Canada
II- Resettlement from outside Canada: the Refugee and Humanitarian Resettlement Program, for people seeking protection from outside Canada
I- Refugee status from inside Canada
Canada offers refugee protection to people in Canada who fear persecution and who are unwilling or unable to return to their home country.
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. TheIRB 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;
- 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;
- YYou made a previous refugee claim that was rejected by the IRB; or
- You abandoned or withdrew a previous refugee claim
In addition, people who are subject to a removal order cannot make a refugee claim.
Safe Third Country Agreement
Canada has an agreement with the United States where people who want to make a refugee claim must do so in the first safe country they arrive in. This means that if you enter Canada at a land border from the United States, you cannot make a refugee claim in Canada. In some cases this rule does not apply (for example, if you have family in Canada).
You may find the following definitions useful as you learn more about refugee claims in Canada.
Convention refugees are people who are 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.
Person in need of protection
A person in need of protection is 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.
II- Resettlement from outside Canada
People who can be resettled from outside Canada fall into two classes.
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1) Convention Refugee Abroad Class
You may be in this class if you:
- are outside your home country; and
- cannot return there due to a well-founded fear of persecution based on:
o political opinion,
o nationality, or
o membership in a particular social group, such as women or people with a particular sexual orientation.
You must also be:
- outside Canada, and want to come to Canada,
- referred by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) or another referral organization, or be sponsored by a private sponsorship group, and
- selected as a government-assisted or privately sponsored refugee, or have the funds needed to support yourself and any dependants after you arrive in Canada.
2) Country of Asylum Class
You may be in this class if you:
- are outside your home country or the country where you normally live and have been, and continue to be, seriously and personally affected by civil war or armed conflict, or have suffered massive violations of human rights.
You must also be:
- outside Canada,
- referred by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) or another referral organization or be sponsored by a private sponsorship group, and
- privately sponsored, or have the funds needed to support yourself and any dependants after you arrive in Canada.
Some people are not eligible
You are not eligible to resettle to Canada as a refugee from outside Canada if:
- you have another secure offer for protection, such as an offer to be resettled in another country;
- you become a citizen of another country and have the protection of that country;
- you choose to return to live in the country you had left; or
- the reasons for your fear of persecution no longer exist.
Who can Sponsor a refugee?
1. Sponsorship Agreement Holders
A number of groups across the country have signed agreements with the Government of Canada to help support refugees from abroad when they resettle in Canada. They are known as sponsorship agreement holders.
2. Blended Visa Office-Referred Program
The Blended Visa Office-Referred (VOR) Program matches refugees identified for resettlement by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) with private sponsors in Canada.
3. Groups of five
A group of five or more Canadian citizens or permanent residents over the age of 18 can sponsor one or more refugees to come to Canada and settle in their area.
4. Community sponsors
Some community groups can sponsor refugees to come to Canada.
5. Joint Assistance Sponsorship Program
Organizations can work as partners with Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) to resettle refugees with special needs.
6. Sponsors in Quebec
Quebec has its own process to sponsor refugees.