Canada is a party to the United Nations 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol. Canada’s refugee system is regulated by the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which implements the Convention.
According to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, refugee protection is conferred on a person, when a person has been determined to be a convention refugee or a person in need of protection.
A Convention refugee is a person who, by reason of a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion,
(a) is outside of their country of nationality and is unable or, by reason of that fear, unwilling to avail themselves of the protection of that country; or
(b) not having a country of nationality, is outside the country of their former habitual residence and is unable or, by reason of that fear, unwilling to return to that country.
A Person in need of protection is defined as a person in Canada whose removal to their country or countries of nationality or, if they do not have a country of nationality, their country of former habitual residence, would
subject them personally
(a) to danger, of torture within the meaning of Article 1 of the Convention Against Torture; or
(b) to a risk to their life or to a risk of cruel and unusual treatment or punishment.
As such Canada has been home for refugees from more than 140 countries who were either resettled or were granted asylum (statistics from govt. of Canada 2010).
The Canadian refugee system has two main parts:
• the Refugee and Humanitarian Resettlement Program, for people who need protection from outside Canada and
• the Inland refugee application for people making refugee protection claims from within Canada
Refugee and Humanitarian Resettlement Program
Every year Canada takes a certain number of refugees through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), these refugees are screened and identified through the UNHCR application process.
Also, a group of five private sponsors and not-for-profit organizations are able to sponsor refugees to Canada. They have to sign sponsorship agreements with the Government of Canada to help support refugees. These
groups are known as Sponsorship Agreement Holders. Sponsorship Agreement Holders can sponsor refugees themselves, or work with others in the community to do so.
Inland refugee application program
This asylum program works to provide refugee protection to people in Canada who:
• have a well-founded fear of persecution or
• are at risk of torture, or cruel or unusual punishment in their home
There are certain categories of people, that may have a lesser chance of approval on their application for refugee protection if they have been convicted of serious criminal offenses or had previous refugee claims denied by Canada.
To obtain further legal advice on the refugee system, you need to consult a lawyer. You may also be entitled to Legal Aid services in Ontario. You can contact www.legalaid.on.ca for more information.
Help for resettled refugees
Under the Resettlement Assistance Program, the Government of Canada helps government-assisted refugees with essential services and income support once they are in Canada. The refugee resettlement program is administered by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), which manages both the processing of applications and resettlement assistance.
Through this program, refugees get income support for up to one year or until they can support themselves, whichever comes first. Basic social assistance is provided to support them with shelter, food, and other things.
Private sponsors must provide financial and emotional support to any refugees they sponsor.
The sponsor’s support includes help with housing, clothing, and food. Most sponsorships last for one year, but some refugees may be able to get help from their sponsors for up to three years.
Help for all newcomers, including refugees
The government of Canada provides funding support to Provincial governments, service provider organizations, and other non-governmental partner agencies to carry out settlement programs that help newcomers settle and adapt to life in Canada.
These services include helping newcomers:
• know their settlement needs and link them to services in their community
• better understand life in Canada and make informed decisions (this includes the Canadian Orientation Abroad program, which is provided overseas and gives general information about life in Canada)
• get language training in English and French, so they have the skills to live in Canada
• search for and find jobs
• build community networks with long-time Canadians and established immigrants, and
• access support services that help with:
• using transportation
• finding translation and interpretation services
• finding resources for people with disabilities, and
• accessing short-term/crisis counseling if needed.
Access to settlement services continues until individuals become Canadian citizens.