ARCHIVED – Annual Report to Parliament on Immigration, 2005

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Section 4
Maintaining Canada’s Humanitarian Tradition

CIC plays a significant role in maintaining Canada’s humanitarian tradition by protecting refugees and persons in need of protection and by representing Canadian values and interests in multilateral and bilateral international fora on refugee protection. Each year, Canada protects many thousands of people, nearly half of whom are refugees selected abroad for resettlement in Canada. Protected status can also be granted to persons who have sought asylum at a port of entry or inland office in Canada.

The protection of refugees is central to IRPA. Reaffirming Canada’s commitment to international efforts to help those most in need, the Act stresses the importance of saving lives and protecting displaced and persecuted persons, while also maintaining the integrity of Canada’s refugee system and preventing its exploitation. The expanded definition of refugee protection under IRPA includes the criteria from the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol, and from the 1987 Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment [note 24], as well as the further criteria of risk to life or risk of cruel and unusual treatment or punishment.

Convention refugees are individuals who, because of a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion, are outside their country of nationality or habitual residence, and are unable or unwilling by reason of that fear to return to that country. The definition of a protected person is extended to individuals who are in similar circumstances (that is, those who are seriously and personally affected by civil war, armed conflict or massive violations of human rights) but who do not fully meet the definition of a Convention refugee. As discussed below, refugees selected abroad fall into two categories, government-assisted and privately sponsored.

Protection may also be granted to individuals who have already entered Canada in cases where removal to their country of nationality or former habitual residence would subject them to the possibility of death, torture, or cruel and unusual treatment or punishment.

Reform of Canada’s refugee determination system was identified as a government priority in December 2003. In April 2004, the Government of Canada released a national strategy aimed at enhancing our nation’s security. The strategy, Securing an Open Society: Canada’s National Security Policy, focuses on protecting our nation and its citizens. CIC is leading this effort and in 2004 worked with other departments (including Justice, the IRBs and the CBSAs) to develop substantive proposals that will advance the refugee reform agenda. Many recent administrative measures have yielded positive results in the form of reduced intake and reduced inventories in some parts of the system. Intake for 2005 is projected to be at a 15-year low at less than 20,000. Intake is lower, due in part to a worldwide drop in refugee claims, and in part to measures that aim to reduce the number of asylum claims made within Canada from individuals who do not always have a genuine need for protection. With a drop in asylum claims, CIC can ensure that the limited resources available are directed at those most in need of protection. By June 2005, the IRBs inventory had been reduced by more than half to 22,000, compared to a high of 51,600 in 2002.

Canada’s Role in International Protection

In accordance with its humanitarian tradition and international obligations, CIC works with major international organizations, foreign governments, NGOs involved in human rights and humanitarian assistance, and many other partners to protect refugees and promote Canadian policy interests and values. Key partners include the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and the Inter-Governmental Consultations on Asylum, Migration and Refugee Policies. For example, CIC played a key role in the development of the UNHCR’s Agenda for Protection, which provides a blueprint for the future of refugee protection, and in the identification of key priorities stemming from the Agenda. The Department continues to be an active participant in the UNHCR’s Standing Committee and Executive Committee.

CIC also participates regularly in other formal and informal international discussions such as the Four Country Conference, the Puebla Process, the Bali Process and the European Union’s special initiative to develop models for national refugee resettlement processes. Other formal consultative processes include the International Conference on Population and Development, negotiations of the UN Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime, and the Migrant Smuggling and Trafficking Protocols.

In June 2004, as part of the Convention Plus initiative (which aims to find durable solutions for refugees in protracted situations), the Core Group on the Strategic Use of Resettlement produced the Multilateral Framework of Understandings (MFU) on Resettlement. The MFU is intended to serve as a guide for future Convention Plus agreements that involve resettlement as a durable solution in protracted refugee situations. Co-chaired by Canada and the UNHCR, the Core Group was made up of 16 governments, the European Union and the IOM. The Executive Committee of the UNHCR welcomed the MFU in its Conclusion on International Protection in October 2004. One of the aims of the MFU is to have more resettlement opportunities provided to refugees in tandem with other durable solutions. One area of innovation, which the MFU encourages the UNHCR to pursue in cooperation with resettlement countries, is expanding the use of “group resettlement.” Canada is at the forefront of using group resettlement strategically.

Resettlement of Refugees from Abroad

Canada extends protection to Convention refugees and to persons in similar circumstances through the Refugee and Humanitarian Resettlement Program. Under this program, CIC selects for resettlement in Canada a set number of refugees from abroad for whom there is no other durable solution available within a reasonable period of time. To be eligible, the individuals must be unable to return to their country of nationality or fixed residence, or to remain in the country that has granted them temporary protection (the first country of asylum). They must also undergo a medical examination, as well as security and criminality checks.

CIC is actively working with the UNHCR and the IOM to find ways to improve its referral capacity and increase efficiencies to better meet the needs of refugees, while ensuring the integrity of the Refugee and Humanitarian Resettlement Program. In 2004, the Department undertook an evaluation of a group processing pilot for government-assisted refugees from Kenya and initiated other group processing projects to increase efficiencies and ensure it achieves its global resettlement targets. CIC has also asked the UNHCR to identify a group of Burmese from Thailand for fiscal year 2006–2007. Standard guidelines for group processing are being developed as CIC evaluates the lessons learned from these pilot projects.

The Resettlement Assistance Program

CIC offers financial and immediate essential services to help refugees resettle in Canada and integrate into Canadian society. Through the Resettlement Assistance Program (RAP), the government ensures the delivery of essential services (such as reception services at the port of entry, temporary accommodation, assistance to find accommodation, and financial advice) through contracted service provider organizations, and provides income support for up to one year in most cases and up to two years for refugees with special needs, such as victims of trauma or torture. In addition, the Interim Federal Health Program provides care until refugees are eligible for provincial health-care programs. This program is offered to all resettled refugees upon arrival in Canada.

In 2004, in order to improve refugee outcomes and program effectiveness, CIC worked with service provider organizations to implement the recommendations from the evaluation of the RAP. The Department is also developing strategies to address changes in the refugee profile, including refugees with special needs. The new terms and conditions for RAP, developed for the renewal of the program in March 2005, allow for increased collaboration with the voluntary sector through special projects aimed at enhancing program delivery and client services. CIC finalized the Accountability, Risk and Audit Framework for RAP, which includes fully developed data collection measures to validate that the program is meeting its objectives as well as maintaining its program integrity.

The Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program

In addition to government support, refugees receive assistance to resettle in Canada from private sponsor organizations representing religious, ethnic and community groups, and from groups of five or more individuals. Through the Private Sponsorship of Refugees (PSR) Program, these groups take on the responsibility of providing refugees with accommodation, resettlement assistance and emotional support for up to one year. In exceptional circumstances, this assistance can be extended to up to three years for refugees with special needs such as victims of trauma and torture, or women and children at risk.

The PSR program is a long-standing example of cooperation between the government and volunteer sectors. In 2004, PSR marked its 25th anniversary, an important milestone for a program that has received worldwide recognition. Over the years, the program has enabled faith-based and community groups to sponsor some 185,000 refugees to Canada.

Nevertheless, there are challenges to maintaining program integrity and managing growing inventories of cases representing persons from areas not deemed by the UNHCR as being most in need of Canada’s assistance. To address the issue of delays in processing PSR cases that result from large inventories at key overseas missions, CIC provided significant funding for temporary duty officers in early 2005 to reduce inventories in several of the most affected missions. To address the increasing refusal rates (now at 52%) and inventories, CIC intends to work with partners to achieve the significant reform necessary to ensure a more effective private sponsorship program that allows CIC to focus on the resettlement of those refugees most in need.

CIC undertook a number of other initiatives to strengthen the PSR program in 2004. For example, the Department collaborated with the UNHCR on a seminar for the Refugee Sponsorship Training Program aimed at developing a common understanding of refugee eligibility criteria and circumstances in the private sponsorship community. CIC also worked with sponsoring organizations to sensitize them to the importance of pre-assessment. In addition, the Department worked with key partners involved in delivering the PSR program, including the Canadian Council for Refugees, Sponsorship Agreement Holders, service provider organizations and the UNHCR, to plan a conference that will examine new and effective ways to resettle refugees.

The Department also entered into an innovative partnership with the United Church of Canada (UCC) and the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) in 2004 to facilitate the private sponsorship of refugees referred by visa offices. As the first organization to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with CIC as a referral organization, the HIAS has been working with the visa office in Kenya to identify up to 20 cases for referral to the UCC for private sponsorship.

CIC has also taken action to foster new partnerships with Francophone minority communities across Canada to promote the benefits of the PSR program. Information sessions were held in British Columbia, a capacity assessment was carried out in five Francophone post-secondary institutions to determine their ability to sponsor French-speaking refugees, and negotiations were undertaken for a pilot project in Winnipeg involving five French-speaking refugee families.

The Joint Assistance Sponsorship Program

Under the Joint Assistance Sponsorship Program, private sponsoring groups and government share responsibility for refugee resettlement. Special initiatives, in cooperation with provincial governments and the voluntary sector, assist refugees with special needs (such as women at risk). Joint assistance sponsorships focus on situations where resettlement is urgently needed or where a refugee family needs longer-term support. In these instances, government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) combine their resources to meet the need.

The Immigrant Loans Program

In accordance with IRPA, CIC also manages the Immigrant Loans Program. Geared specifically to refugees from abroad seeking permanent residence in Canada, these loans are intended to cover the pre-entry medical examination, transportation costs to Canada, the permanent residence fee and expenses associated with initial settlement in Canada. Applicants must also demonstrate financial need, as well as their ability to repay the loan. CIC’s diligent management of the loans program has resulted in a recovery rate of about 90% in recent years.

Protection for Individuals Who Make Refugee Protection Claims in Canada

In addition to refugees selected abroad for resettlement, protection can be extended to individuals who seek protection upon or after their arrival in Canada.

The Immigration and Refugee Board (IRBs) [note 25], an independent administrative tribunal, oversees a quasi-judicial process that determines claims for refugee protection made in Canada. The process is designed to ensure fair and consistent decisions in accordance with Canadian law and Canada’s international obligations and humanitarian traditions. The IRBs hears refugee protection claims referred by CIC.

A person whose claim for protection has been accepted may apply for permanent residence for himself or herself, as well as for dependants or close family members whether in Canada or abroad. On the other hand, if the claim for protection is refused, the individual is informed of the reasons in writing and is required to leave the country [note 26]. Refused claimants may, however, apply for a Pre-Removal Risk Assessment (PRRAs) before removal from Canada. The PRRAs process ensures that the risk to the individual is assessed before that person is removed from Canada, particularly in cases where there has been a change in the situation in the country of nationality or new evidence indicates that the person needs protection. Most successful PRRAs applicants may apply for permanent residence in Canada under the protected persons category.

CIC supports the IRBs in arriving at well-informed decisions by providing case-specific and country-specific details on refugee situations. As part of the ongoing review of the information exchange process, procedural changes were identified to improve efficiency, and steps were taken to modify the methods of exchanging case-related information.

The Government of Canada is streamlining the refugee determination system to ensure that more resources can be spent on people with legitimate claims for protection. To this end, CIC continued to work closely with key federal partners, including the IRBs, the CBSAs and the Department of Justice, to implement administrative enhancements to make the system faster and more efficient while upholding high standards of fairness. The government remains fully committed to the principle of refugee protection and to Canada’s humanitarian tradition.

Following the introduction of the IRBs’s Action Plan, the Board produced over 40,000 decisions in 2004. The number of cases in their inventory has been reduced by half, from a high of 52,000 in 2001 to approximately 25,000 cases in 2004, and preliminary results for 2005 show continued progress. CIC actively supports this Action Plan.

CIC is currently developing a series of administrative changes to accelerate the landing process for protected persons and their family members. The objective is to reduce delays in the submission and processing of applications by protected persons and their family members for permanent residence.

In addition, CIC continues to implement effective and responsive measures to reunite family members of protected persons in Canada. In 2004, the number of landings for dependants abroad of protected persons in Canada exceeded the operational target by about 50%.

To further advance Canadian interests in refugee protection and strengthen cooperation on protection issues in the North American context, CIC is working on major collaborative initiatives with the United States. For example, joint efforts are focused on the implementation of the “Asylum Annex,” an appendix to the 2003 Statement of Mutual Understanding with the United States that relates to the sharing of information on a case-by-case basis.

In addition, the Safe Third Country Agreement between Canada and the U.S. came into effect on December 29, 2004. The objective of this Agreement is to establish an effective protocol between Canada and the United States to handle refugee claims. Certain asylum-seekers in the two countries are now required to make their claim in the country where they were first present. As a result, most asylum claimants seeking to enter one country from the other are now returned to the first country to have their claim heard. This Agreement ensures that individuals who claim they are in need of protection will have their claims fully and properly addressed; however, they do not have a right to choose which country hears the claim. An anticipated outcome of this Agreement is that CIC can direct more resources to refugees most in need of protection.

CIC, in collaboration with the CBSAs, continues to look for ways to reduce the exploitation of Canada’s refugee system by individuals who do not have a genuine need for protection. The introduction of the Safe Third Country Agreement with the U.S., judicious use of visitor visa requirements and the continued use of interdiction measures abroad have contributed to a decline of almost 20% in asylum claims made within Canada in 2004 in comparison to the previous year. CIC expects that the number of asylum claimants will continue to decrease in 2005.

4.1 Statistical Overview of Protected Persons Landed in 2004

In 2004, Canada welcomed 32,685 individuals in the protected persons category. As Table 10 indicates, this total is at the high end of the target range (29,400 to 32,800) projected in the 2004 Immigration Plan, although the number of government-assisted refugees is slightly below the target. Of these, 7,411 were government-assisted refugees; 3,115 were privately sponsored refugees; 15,901 were refugees landed in Canada (including cases accepted by the Refugee Protection Division of the IRBs and those accepted by the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration under the PRRAs [note 27]); and 6,258 were dependants abroad of refugees landed in Canada.

It should be noted that overall refugee landings in 2004 were the highest they have been in recent years, representing an increase of approximately 20% over 2003, 2002 and 2001 [note 28]. This increase is largely the result of CIC’s support to the IRBs Action Plan to streamline the refugee determination system and of processing efficiencies at CIC’s Case Processing Centre in Vegreville and in the regions.

Table 10: Protected Persons Landed in 2004 (Compared to the Immigration Plan)

Category 2004 Plan Number Admitted
Government-assisted refugees 7,500 – 7,500 7,411
Privately sponsored refugees 3,400 – 4,000 3,115
Refugees landed in Canada 14,500 – 16,500 15,901
Dependants abroad 4,000 – 4,800 6,258
TOTAL PROTECTED PERSONS 29,400 – 32,800 32,685

In 2004, the total number of foreign nationals who claimed refugee status from within Canada was 25,510. This represents a decrease of about 20% from the 2003 total of 31,893. In 2004, the IRBs accepted 40% of the cases for which it rendered final decisions. If this trend continues, we can expect that 40% of the cases finalized by the IRBs in the current year may be accepted. Persons accepted by the IRBs may apply for permanent residence in Canada as protected persons.

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24. For more information on this Convention, see www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/h_cat39.htm.

25. For further information, see www.irb-cisr.gc.ca.

26. A person whose claim is refused and who must leave the country may apply to the Federal Court for a judicial review. A judge of that court decides whether leave will be granted. In most cases, a person has the right to remain in Canada pending the outcome of the judicial review.

27. In 2004, CIC received 7,435 applications under the PRRAs from individuals who had been refused refugee status by the IRBs, as compared to the 6,637 PRRAs applications submitted in 2003. The acceptance rate for PRRAs cases fell from 3.1% in 2003 (206 people accepted as protected persons) to 2.6% in 2004 (196 protected persons).

28. The total number of people admitted in the protected persons category in previous years was 25,981 in 2003; 25,109 in 2002; and 27,914 in 2001.

 

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