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An Overview of Canada’s Refugee Policy. Canadian Council for Refugees March 2005. Refugees - Part of Canada. Between 1995 to 2004, Canada welcomed more than 2.1 million immigrants. 265,685 refugees were granted permanent residence (12%).

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an overview of canada s refugee policy

An Overview of Canada’s Refugee Policy

Canadian Council for Refugees

March 2005

refugees part of canada
Refugees - Part of Canada
  • Between 1995 to 2004, Canada welcomed more than 2.1 million immigrants.
  • 265,685 refugees were granted permanent residence (12%).

How much do you know about Canada’s record towards refugees?

canada s early record
Canada’s Early Record
  • Refugee protection was not part of Canadian law until 1978.
  • Early immigration policy discriminated by race. British and Northern Europeans were encouraged to immigrate;


canada s early record1
Canada’s Early Record

…Chinese immigrants had to pay a Head Tax (increased to $500 in 1903);

…Asians and others deemed undesirable were excluded by the "continuous passage" policy; and,

…Black immigration from USA was discouraged by Canada’s Immigration Department.

komagatu maru
Komagatu Maru

In 1914, 250 South Asians came to Vancouver on the Komagatu Maru to test the Canada’s "continuous journey” policy.

After two months aboard the ship in Vancouver Harbour, they were refused entry and forced to sail back to India.

discrimination against jews
Discrimination against Jews

In the 1930-40s, thousands of European Jews tried to flee Nazi Germany.

Motivated by anti-semitism, the Canadian government used its discretion to exclude Jews.

Over 900 Jews aboard the St. Louis were denied entry. They returned to Germany and the concentration camps.

international treaty to recognize refugees
International Treaty to recognize Refugees

The 1951 Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees defined who was a refugee, and their right to legal protection and assistance from states who signed.

definition refugee convention
Definition - Refugee Convention

A refugee is any person who…

" …owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his (sic) nationality and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country…"

1951 refugee convention
1951 Refugee Convention
  • The 1951 Convention was limited to protecting the 50 million European refugees after World War II
1978 new canadian immigration act
1978 New Canadian Immigration Act

In 1978, Canada’s Immigration Act was updated to include a humanitarian category for refugees needing protection and resettlement.

In 1986, UN awarded the Nansen Medal to the Canadian people in "recognition of their major and sustained contribution to the cause of refugees".

canadian charter applies to refugee claimants
Canadian Charter applies to Refugee Claimants

On 4 April 1985, the Supreme Court of Canada rules the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects the basic rights and freedoms of refugee claimants in Canada.

singh decision 1985
Singh Decision 1985

Known as the Singh decision, this Supreme Court decision declared that refugee claimants are entitled to basic standards of rights protection.

1988 Immigration and Refugee Board to created to hear refugee claims.

April 4, date of Singh decision, is annually commemorated by Canadian refugeesupporters as “Refugee Rights Day”.

where are refugees today
Where are Refugees Today?

Statistics from UNHCR 2002 Statistical Yearbook, published July 2004.

canada a leader in refugee protection
Canada - A Leader in Refugee Protection

Relative to other countries, Canada has earned a reputation as a leader with some POSITIVE elements:

a) An independent expert tribunal with excellent documentation,

b) Gender guidelines

c) Until recently, minimal detention of refugee claimants

d) An active resettlement program.

issues for canada sponsored refugees wait for years
Issues for Canada: Sponsored Refugees wait for Years

In 2005, more than 12,000 refugees overseas are waiting for a decision.

Refugees sponsored in 2005 may not be interviewed until 2008.

Private sponsors in Canada lose hope.

issues for canada anti refugee discourse
Issues for Canada: Anti-Refugee Discourse

Some Canadian media and experts carry simplistic messages that dangerously present one group of refugees as more deserving than another.

Refugees in camps are presented as "good" refugees who wait patiently overseas.

Refugees who come to Canada to claim refugee status are presented as "bad«  and accused of jumping an imaginary queue.