Last Updated: Monday, 20 October 2014, 09:33 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants World Refugee Survey 2007 - Canada

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 11 July 2007
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants World Refugee Survey 2007 - Canada, 11 July 2007, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4696387c5.html [accessed 20 October 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Refoulement/Physical Protection

There were no reports of refoulement and Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) conducted pre-removal risk assessments before deporting anyone not already a refugee or otherwise protected. In July, Canada deported a Sikh nationalist accused of attempting to assassinate senior Indian officials, despite a request from the UN Committee against Torture to delay the deportation to allow it to investigate the case. Although the Canadian Security Intelligence Service investigated him for about a year after his arrival in 2001, it never charged him.

Since 2004, Canada has suspended removals to Afghanistan, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo (Congo-Kinshasa), Haiti, Iraq, Liberia, Rwanda, and Zimbabwe, but not for those who have committed crimes, posed security risks, or committed human rights violations. During 2006, Canada removed almost 9,400 aliens, most often to Mexico, the United States, Costa Rica, Portugal, and Pakistan.

Canada's refugee protection system consisted of two main components: the Refugee and Humanitarian Resettlement Program for those outside the country and the Asylum in Canada process for those within the country and at its borders.

CIC selected refugees abroad for resettlement based on referrals from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and private sponsors. In the case of designated source countries (Congo-Kinshasa, El Salvador, Guatemala, Colombia, Sierra Leone, and Sudan), residents could apply directly at Canadian missions serving that region. The Canadian visa officer decided all claims from abroad.

Within Canada, the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) decided asylum claims based on the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees as well as on Article 3 of the 1984 Convention against Torture. Canada's Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA), which took effect in 2002, calls for a Refugee Appeal Division, but the Government had not created one by the end of 2006. Applicants could apply for leave to appeal to the Federal Court, but the court rejected 90 percent of such applications without giving reasons for doing so. When the Federal Courts upheld asylum seekers' claims, the cases returned to the IRB for further hearings. Rejected asylum seekers could also pursue pre-removal risk assessments, but these only considered new evidence and did not review original decisions. The final option was to seek permanent residence on "humanitarian and compassionate grounds" at the Government's discretion; however, the Government could deport applicants even as it considered their claims.

In June, a former IRB member received a six-year prison sentence for demanding bribes. In October, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police arrested an IRB member after he allegedly demanded sexual favors from an asylum seeker. In November, the IRB removed another member and reopened about two dozen refugee cases after he allegedly sexually harassed an interpreter.

In 2004, Canada and the United States implemented the Agreement for Cooperation in the Examination of Refugee Status Claims from Nationals of Third Countries, also known as the Safe Third Country Agreement, which provided that asylum seekers traveling between the two countries had to apply in the country where they first arrived. This significantly reduced the number of asylum claims in Canada, particularly by Colombians.

Every refugee and asylum seeker had the right to representation by legal counsel, and several provinces provided free legal aid to those who could not afford it.

Detention/Access to Courts

Canada detained nearly 1,500 asylum seekers in 2006. The IRPA gave immigration officers authority to detain inadmissible foreign nationals and permanent residents and any non-citizens who failed to establish their identity. Detainees could appeal to the IRB, but it could not intervene if CIC doubted an asylum seeker's identity. The IRB reviewed non-identity-based detention cases 48 hours after detention, then again within 7 days, and then every 30 days thereafter.

Canada had an expedited process to remove dangerous persons, allowing for indefinite detention of permanent residents, refugees, and temporary visitors without the right to view the charges against them. In February 2007, the Supreme Court unanimously rejected the practice and gave the Government one year to revise it.

The IRPA entitled refugees and protected persons to documents indicating their status, but requests took eight weeks to process.

In October, the Government eliminated its Court Challenges Program, which had provided funding for refugees and other vulnerable groups to mount legal challenges to discriminatory practices. As recently as September, a refugee used the program successfully to challenge a 13-year delay in issuing permanent residence.

Freedom of Movement and Residence

Canada allowed refugees and asylum seekers to move freely within the country. Once they obtained a Permanent Resident Card or a Protected Person Status Document, they could apply for international travel documents through Canada's passport office.

Right to Earn a Livelihood

Following the filing of their asylum claims and a medical exam, asylum seekers could apply for work permits. Until they gained permanent residence, the Government assigned refugees and asylum seekers social insurance numbers beginning with nine, which identified them as people without permanent status and made it difficult to obtain some jobs.

In January 2007, a Canadian court ruled that the Ontario College of Teachers had violated the rights of an Iranian refugee when it blocked her application to teach because she could not provide her original, Iranian academic qualifications or copies with Iranian certification. The court ordered the College to reexamine her application.

CIC officers could impose, vary, or cancel conditions on work permits, including the type of employment, the employer, location, and hours worked. Refugees had the legal right to hold title to and transfer businesses, land, and other capital assets.

Public Relief and Education

The Canadian government offered several assimilation programs for refugees, including housing assistance, health services, financial assistance, and income support for up to one year. Refugees could also apply for provincial social assistance and, once started, provincial health insurance covered them on par with nationals. Social assistance for asylum seekers varied by province and, in some cases, was worse than national treatment.

The IRPA stipulated that foreign minors did not need authorization to study at the pre-school through secondary school level unless they were children of temporary residents not authorized to work or study in Canada. Refugee children had access to the same primary and secondary education as Canadian nationals.

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