Backgrounder — Cracking down on Human Smugglers who Abuse Canada’s Immigration System

While Canada has a proud history and tradition of welcoming immigrants who wish to start a new life here, Canada’s generous immigration system has become a target for human smuggling operations. The Government has taken action to end the abuse of Canada’s immigration system by human smugglers.

Under the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act, individuals who illegally enter Canada as part of a designated irregular arrival will face the following action:

  • If an individual is successful in obtaining protected person status, they can be re-assessed within five years to determine whether they still need protection or can be returned to their country of origin. During this five year period:
    • the individual will not be provided with a refugee travel document and will not be able to apply to immigrate to Canada through other means. As a result, they will not be eligible to sponsor family members into Canada or become Canadian citizens;
    • the individual will be required to report regularly to officials; and
    • the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism may apply to have their continued need for protection reassessed if conditions change in their country of origin;
  • If an individual is unsuccessful in obtaining protected person status, they will not have access to an appeal at the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB), would be removed from Canada, and would be barred from applying to immigrate to Canada through other means for a five-year period; and
  • The individual will have access to health benefits that are similar to, but not more generous than what most Canadians are entitled to through government-funded programs, while protecting public health and public safety.

As part of the new legislation, individuals coming to Canada as part of a designated irregular arrival will be ineligible to apply for permanent residence for a period of five years. This differs from current practice whereby those determined to be Convention refugees or persons in need of protection may apply for permanent residence immediately. As these individuals will not be able to become permanent residents, they cannot sponsor family members.

During this period, the Minister could apply to the Refugee Protection Division (RPD) at the IRB to re-assess the individuals’ country conditions to determine if they should return to their country of origin or determine if they have returned to their country of origin and are no longer at risk there. In addition, individuals will not be provided with travel documentation to support their travel outside of Canada unless authorized by the Minister in exceptional circumstances.

Processing at the Immigration and Refugee Board

Under the Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act, those who arrive via a designated irregular arrival will have access to only a hearing at the RPD at the IRB. In the event of a negative decision, they will be ineligible for an appeal to the new Refugee Appeal Division. While they could apply to the Federal Court for judicial review of the RPD decision, they will not benefit from an automatic stay of removal from Canada while this application is being considered.

Limited benefits

Canadians enjoy health services that are among the best in the world. However, it is unfair that those who have not followed the rules be rewarded for their actions by having access to more generous benefits than the average Canadian receives.

The Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP) focuses on refugee claimants (including failed refugee claimants who are awaiting removal), Convention refugees, and others in refugee-like situations. IFHP provides some temporary coverage until applicants qualify for provincial or territorial health insurance.

Those who arrive as part of a designated irregular arrival, once they are released from detention, will no longer receive coverage for supplemental health-care services, with an exception for medications or vaccines needed for the protection of public health and safety. This will be implemented through changes to the IFHP that take effect on June 30, 2012.

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