Refugee Protection Claim
Canada is a diverse and multicultural nation. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms in Canada guarantees all citizens and permanent residents (PRs) fundamental human rights and freedom from any form of unfair punishment, including discrimination, maltreatment, and torture.
Sadly, some countries deny their citizens such fundamental freedoms and rights. If a foreigner’s rights and freedoms are threatened in their home country, they may apply for refugee protection in Canada. The Canadian Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) recognizes the important role the refugee programs play in saving lives and protecting the persecuted and displaced.
Who is a refugee?
To live up to its international obligations regarding refugees, the Canadian government provides a safe haven to people with a justifiable fear of persecution because of their political affiliation, race, religion, among other things.
Canada strives to protect the vulnerable, particularly specific social groups like abused women and children, or members of the LGBT community, and anybody at risk of death, cruel, unusual treatment, torture, and unfair punishment.
Canada considers someone a refugee if they have a genuine fear of maltreatment upon returning to their home country (their country of permanent residence or citizenship). The person must expressly prove that their home country can’t offer them adequate formal protection to guarantee their security. The types of fear of persecution that Canada and the international community recognize include:
- Political opinions
- Religious beliefs
- Membership of particular social groups, for example, the LGBT, specific gender.
Refugee claims made at the port of entry.
A refugee claimant looking to access Canada can submit their application for refugee status at a port of entry, for example, at the airport, seaport, and border.
The Officer to whom you make your claim will do two things. First, they will issue a removal order requiring you to leave Canada, but this will be suspended so long as your refugee claim is active. The removal order cancels any existing visa you may have.
The immigration officer you meet at the port of entry will conduct an eligibility interview and have two options. One of the options is to issue a removal order, which denies you entry to Canada.
A removal order cancels the foreigner’s visa, if any, at the port of entry. However, a removal order stands suspended as long as a claimant’s refugee status is still active.
The other option is to make a determination of whether the refugee claim is ‘eligible’ for a referral to the RPD (Refugees Protection Division) of the IRB (Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada) for a formal hearing. The officer is likely to refuse your claim if:
- You’ve already made refugee claims in Canada before
- You’re a convict
- You have committed serious crimes in the past.
- You’ve entered Canada through the US.
The IRB/RPD is an autonomous tribunal that functions just like a law court to determine who receives refugee status in Canada and who shouldn’t.
Refugee claims made outside Canada.
You can claim refugee status while still in your home country of citizenship or residence. A refugee claimant from outside Canada will do so to a Canadian High Commission, Embassy, or visa office. Visa officers at these places will decide whether the claimant meets the eligibility criteria as per the Refugee and Humanitarian Resettlement Program (RHRP) and if the applicant will be allowed entry to Canada as a refugee.
You can make a refugee protection claim while outside Canada under any of the two classes below:
Refugee claims from designated safe and unsafe countries
Canada distinguishes between people claiming refugee status who reside in designated “safe” states and those who claim from unsafe places. Safe states include most EU countries, the US, and other countries that respect the rule of law and uphold human rights.
While it is easier for a refugee claimant from a designated “unsafe” country to access Canada, those from safe countries are often subject to a more rigorous refugee claim process. Citizens or permanent residents of safe countries may not be offered the same appeal rights as other claimants.
Timelines for refugee protection claims
the Refugees Protection Division (RPD) often sticks to strict timelines. The RPD requires a refugee claimant to prepare thoroughly for the process and attend to their claim immediately. Here is the timeline and description of the process:
A refugee claimant applying at the port of entry has roughly two weeks (15 days) to submit their Basis of Claim (BOC) forms to the RPD. The BOC form is a vital document that Refugee Board uses to decide whether to accept or reject a refugee claim. The BOC is an opportunity for you to demonstrate that you are worthy of refugee protection in Canada.
If you make an immigration claim inside Canada, you must provide your BOCs on the same day simultaneously as you make the refugee claim.
If you are a claimant is from one of the countries that Canada has designated as “safe,” the Refugee Protection Division must, within thirty days of receiving your BOCs, the set will then set a hearing date. The timeline for a claim one makes at the port of entry is 45 days.
If your country of citizenship or residence is designated as “safe,” the RPD will set a hearing date within 60 days of receiving a case referral from an immigration officer.
You must file witness statements and make documentary disclosures at the Refugee Protection Division no less than 10 days before the set hearing date.
At the refugee hearing meeting, the refugee judge will question you about your:
- Refugee claim
- Evidence provided, including any submitted documents in support of your refugee claim
- Any witnesses who have testified in support of your claim
The refugee judge will then choose to grant or refuse your refugee protection. If granted, you’ll go through the final step of applying for Canadian permanent residence.
If your refugee protection claim is refused, the judge will explain, in writing, why they declined to grant the claim. If you feel your refugee claim was denied unfairly, you can appeal to the RAD (Refugee Appeal Division). Alternatively, you can submit your application for Judicial Review (in the Canadian Federal Court).