Family reunification

Refugee and immigrant families are frequently separated for prolonged periods or indefinitely, due to policies and practices that block or delay reunification. 

The barriers include a narrow definition of family (excluding, for example, non-biological children), costly and time-consuming DNA testing, bars on sponsorship if the sponsor is receiving social assistance, a category of "excluded family members," and administrative delays.

Refugees are among those hardest hit.  People who flee persecution and seek asylum in Canada often arrive, by force, without their spouse or children.  Once recognized as refugees in Canada, they can apply to bring their immediate family members to Canada.  However, sometimes they are forced to wait years to be reunited with their spouses and children overseas, who can be in situations of danger and persecution.

Join the CCR’s family reunification campaign

All families have equal value. However, Canada’s immigration system treats families unequally:

  • By immigration category (Refugees and live-in caregivers wait much longer for family reunification than people in the Family Class)
  • By region (Processing in Africa is much slower than in other regions)
  • By law (Some families are denied by law the right to family reunification, e.g. Excluded Family members (R 117(9)(d))

Family separation has devastating impacts on mental health and impedes the ability of refugees and other newcomers to integrate in Canada.

Family separation also leads to lost economic opportunities – for the affected families and for Canada as a whole.

Principal recommendations

  1. Processing times

Refugees and live-in caregivers seeking to reunite with spouse and children should have processing times at least as fast as spousal sponsorships, in all regions.

(We also call on the government to publish processing times of Dependants of Refugees (DR2s) globally and by region.)

  1. Excluded Family Member rule

Eliminate Regulation 117(9)(d).

Other recommendations

We also encourage those participating in the campaign to highlight one among the following list of additional recommendations.

  • Provide Temporary Residence Permits (TRPs) to family members of survivors of trafficking in Canada.
  • Allow spouses and children of Temporary Foreign Workers (including live-in caregivers) to accompany them in Canada.
  • Quickly bring age of dependants back up to under-22 and ensure transitional rules are in place to cover the children who aged out since August 2014
  • Introduce measures to ensure expedited processing of separated children at risk
  • Amend the law to ensure that separated children in Canada can quickly apply to reunite with parents or older siblings
  • Amend the regulations to provider increased opportunities for families to reunite (including for refugee families).

Take action

The CCR encourages organizations and individuals to:

  • Organize local forums
  • Visit local MPs in constituencies (on or around 4 April)

More details to follow.