The refugee system in Canada

Tradition of humanitarian action

Our compassion and fairness are a source of great pride for Canadians.

These values are at the core of our domestic refugee protection system and our resettlement program. Both programs have long been praised by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

Refugees are people who have fled their countries because of a well-founded fear of persecution, and who are therefore unable to return home. Many refugees come from war-torn countries and have seen unthinkable horrors.

A refugee is different from an immigrant, in that an immigrant is a person who chooses to settle permanently in another country. Refugees are forced to flee.

Canadian refugee protection programs

The Canadian refugee system has two main parts:

  • the Refugee and Humanitarian Resettlement Program, for people seeking protection from outside Canada; and
  • the In-Canada Asylum Program for people making refugee protection claims from within Canada.

Refugee and Humanitarian Resettlement Program

There are an estimated 15.4 million refugees in the world today. Countries with resettlement programs resettle about 100,000 refugees from abroad each year. Of that number, Canada annually takes in one out of every 10, through the government-assisted and privately sponsored refugee programs.

Refugees selected for resettlement to Canada have often fled their homes because of unimaginable hardship and have, in many cases, been forced to live in refugee camps for many years. When they arrive in Canada, they basically pick up the pieces of their lives and start over again.

As a member of the international community, Canada helps find solutions to prolonged and emerging refugee situations and helps emerging democracies try to solve many of the problems that create refugee populations. To do this, Canada works closely with the United Nations Refugee Agency.

In May 2007, for example, Canada committed to resettling up to 5,000 Bhutanese refugees and later expanded that commitment to resetting 6,500 refugees. As of June 30, 2013, more than 5,500 Bhutanese have already arrived in Canada.

Canada also continues to resettle Iraqi refugees. The Government of Canada has resettled more than 18,200 Iraqi refugees (as of December 2013) and is on track to meet its commitment of resettling 20,000 Iraqis by 2015.

In keeping with Canada’s proud humanitarian and compassionate traditions, individuals and families selected under the Government-Assisted Refugees (GAR) program are provided with immediate and essential services and income support under the Resettlement Assistance Program (RAP) to assist in helping them become established in Canada.

This support is normally available for up to one year but may extend up to two years for refugees with special needs.

The Resettlement Assistance Program provides income support to government-assisted refugees and offers other essential services such as:

  • welcoming at the point of entry
  • temporary housing
  • help to find permanent housing
  • other settlement services, including financial assistance.

These resettlement services are in addition to settlement services and programs funded by CIC to help all newcomers, including refugees, settle and integrate into their new communities. The amount of monthly income support provided to government-assisted refugees is based on current provincial social assistance rates. It provides the minimum amount required to cover only the most basic food and shelter needs until the refugees are able to support themselves.

Private sponsors across the country also help resettle refugees to Canada. Some are organized to do so on an ongoing basis and have signed sponsorship agreements with the Government of Canada to help support refugees from abroad when they resettle in Canada. These organizations are known as sponsorship agreement holders. They can sponsor refugees themselves or work with others in the community to sponsor refugees. Other sponsors, known as Groups of Five and Community Sponsors, are persons/groups  in the community who are not involved on an ongoing basis but have come together to sponsor refugee(s) on one or two occasions.

In-Canada Asylum Program

Refugees come from around the world and many make their claims in Canada. The number of people arriving varies from year to year. In 2013, more than 10,380 people came to Canada and made an asylum claim.

The 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 countries.

Not everyone is eligible to seek asylum. For example, people convicted of serious criminal offences and people who have had previous refugee claims denied by Canada are not eligible to make a claim.

Integration services

Refugees—resettled from overseas or granted protection in Canada—often do not have the resources to easily establish themselves. All refugees are entitled to basic health services and settlement support.

Resettled refugees get initial assistance from either the federal government, the Province of Quebec, or private sponsors (organizations or groups of people in Canada).

These programs are a key part of helping refugees and other newcomers settle in Canada. This is why, since 2006, the Government of Canada has tripled immigrant settlement funding.

CIC’s also funds a Settlement Program that supports newcomers in a variety of ways  by providing services that help them settle and adapt to life in Canada. CIC works with provinces, territories and service provider organizations in delivering these services, which include:

  • information and orientation services to better understand life in Canada and make informed decisions about the settlement experience; this includes overseas in-person service through Canadian Orientation Abroad available in several countries as well as in-Canada products and services,
  • needs assessment and referral activities to increase newcomers’ awareness of their settlement needs and link newcomers to CIC-funded and community settlement services,
  • language training in English and French, so newcomers have the language skills to function in Canada,
  • help finding employment that matches newcomers’ skills and education and,
  • support services which help newcomers access settlement services, such as child-care, transportation assistance; translation; interpretation; and short-term/crisis counselling to deal with settlement issues.

Conclusion

Finding who is in need of Canada’s protection is a process that must take into consideration the responsibility of helping those in genuine need while protecting the system against those who seek to abuse it. The health and safety of Canadians must also be ensured.

Our refugee protection programs have helped refugees bring their experiences and skills and their hopes and dreams to Canada which, in turn, has contributed to an even richer and more prosperous society for us all.

 
 
 
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