Refugees are people who flee their country because it is unsafe. Most refugees seek protection in a country neighbouring their own. Others make their way to countries like Canada and seek protection once they have arrived. This paper describes the steps to obtain protection when a person is already in Canada.
International law and Canadian legislation provide a framework for identifying whether a person needs protection. Refugee claimants must first approach Canadian officials, who will determine whether they meet certain criteria for referral to the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB).
An IRB board member must then decide whether a person has a well‑founded fear of persecution or would face torture or cruel and unusual punishment if returned to the home country. The hearing is usually held in person, and the decision is based on several established grounds. If the person is determined to need protection, a status is conferred that allows the person to apply for permanent residence in Canada.
Individuals who are unable to prove that they need protection face removal proceedings. However, there are several legal options a person may choose to pursue before removal occurs, such as an appeal to the IRB Refugee Appeal Division, judicial review by the Federal Court of Canada, an application for humanitarian and compassionate consideration or a pre‑removal risk assessment.
Individuals who are fleeing life‑threatening circumstances may not have all their identification documents with them on arrival in Canada. When this happens, such individuals are detained until their identity can be established. Other reasons that a person may be detained include the belief that the person will not attend an immigration examination, or when the person is considered a danger to the public.
Read the full text of the Background Paper: Refugee Protection in Canada
Authors: Julie Béchard and Robert Mason, Library of Parliament