Canadian Council for Refugees



Facing Facts:

Myths and misconceptions about refugees and immigrants in Canada


Myth #1: Canada receives more than its share of refugees

In fact .....

- Many other Western countries receive more refugee claimants than Canada, both in absolute numbers and per capita. Year after year, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States have each received more refugee claims than Canada.(1) Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland are 3 countries with more refugee claims per capita than Canada in 1998.(2)

- The majority of the world's refugees come from - and remain in - countries of the South. The following countries have each been hosting over a quarter of a million uprooted people: Congo/Zaire, Ethiopia, Guinea, Sudan, Tanzania, Azerbaijan, Germany, Russian Federation, Yugoslavia, United States, China, Gaza Strip, Iran, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank, India, Pakistan. The equivalent figure for Canada was 48,800.(3)

- The number of refugees Canada accepts each year is less than a tenth of 1% of our population.

Myth #2: Almost everyone who makes a refugee claim in Canada is accepted and those who are refused have innumerable appeals.

In fact .....

- Less than half of refugee claimants are granted refugee status. In 1998 44% of refugee claims were accepted.(4) The average acceptance rate over the last 5 years (1994-1998) was 48%.

- Despite the fact that refugee determination deals with matters of life and liberty, there is in fact no appeal on the merits for refused claimants. Review by the Federal Court is limited in scope and few claimants are even given permission to be heard by the court. There is a risk review, but it is very narrow and rejects over 95% of applicants.

Myth #3: Refugee claimants can prolong their stay in Canada indefinitely because of government red tape.

In fact .....

- There is very little a refused refugee claimant can do to delay removal. Even an application for humanitarian consideration does not postpone removal.

- Over 5,000 refused refugee claimants were removed from Canada in 1998. Many other claimants left voluntarily.

Myth #4: Refugees who come to Canada using false documents are bogus refugees.

In fact .....

- For many refugees fleeing persecution or death, a false travel document is the only means of escape. Often governments refuse to issue passports to known political dissidents - or imprison them if they apply. The fact that a claimant uses a false travel document tells us nothing about whether the person is a refugee or not.

- Because refugees often cannot obtain all the necessary papers, international law prohibits governments from penalizing refugees who use false documents.(5)

- Most governments, including the Canadian, require travellers to have visas, creating an enormous obstacle for refugees trying to escape persecution. The more governments put up measures to stop people travelling to their territory, the more refugees are forced to use false documents and turn to smugglers to help them escape.

Myth #5: Refugee claimants in Canada are less deserving than refugees abroad and Canada should therefore close its borders and only select refugees overseas.

In fact .....

- All refugees are people who have been forced to flee their homes by human rights abuses and all deserve the chance to start a new life. To say that some are less deserving than others is to say that some human beings are of less value than others.

- Canada has specific obligations towards any refugees on Canadian territory. Sending refugees back to persecution would violate international human rights standards.

- Canada could resettle more refugees from abroad, while still respecting the rights of refugees who make a claim here.

Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 14


Myth #1 Immigrants are a burden on the economy, and a net tax loss for the government.

In fact .....

- Report after report shows that immigrants continue to contribute positively to economic growth. A parliamentary committee studying the issue concluded: "the evidence presented to the Committee confirms that Canada's immigration program continues to exert a positive influence on our economy".(6)

- Immigration actually increases government revenue, and creates a net tax benefit.(7)

- Immigrants and the Canadian-born have about the same rates of employment. Immigrants are more likely to be self-employed than Canadian-born.(8)

Myth #2: Immigrants take jobs away from "real" Canadians, increasing unemployment and driving down wages.

In fact .....

- There is no established link between immigration and unemployment.(9) Interestingly, the economy often grows during periods of high immigration.(10)

- Immigration does not cause significant job displacement among Canadian-born workers.(11) Many immigrants create job opportunities by starting companies and investing capital.(12)

- Studies show that the wage levels of Canadian-born workers are not significantly affected by increased immigration levels.(13)

Myth #3: Recent immigrants are not integrating and threaten Canadian values. Their level of education is low, and many cannot speak English or French.

In fact .....

- The vast majority of immigrants either speak English or French before arriving or learn one or both languages soon after arrival. Immigrants are on average better educated than the Canadian-born and many of the children leading the class in Canadian schools are immigrant and refugee children.(14)

- Over 80% of immigrants become Canadian citizens.(15) Research has shown that immigrants participate in Canadian politics as much as the Canadian-born.(16)

- Fears about immigrant integration are not new. Generation after generation, people have worried about whether the most recent immigrants will integrate as well as previous immigrants.

- Immigrants contribute to Canadian values of diversity and openness.

Myth #4 Increased immigration leads to an increase in crime.

In fact .....

- There is no established connection between immigration and crime. Immigrants are actually less likely to commit major crimes than the Canadian-born, and are under-represented in the prison population. According to the most recent available figures, 20.5% of the Canadian population older than 15 had been born outside the country, while only 11.9% of the total prison population were foreign born.(17)

- Immigrants are just people like anyone else - a few end up in jail, most are law-abiding.

1. Intergovernmental Consultations, Geneva: Asylum statistics.

2. Intergovernmental Consultations, Geneva: Asylum statistics.

3. US Committee for Refugees. World Refugee Survey 1998. Figures as of December 31, 1997. Figures include refugees unwilling or unable to return because of persecution or armed conflict and who lack a durable solution, and refugee-claimants awaiting a refugee status determination.

4. Immigration and Refugee Board statistics.

5. Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, Geneva, 1951, Article 31.

6. Economic Impact of Recent Immigration. First Report of the Sub-Committee on Diminishing Returns, Eighth Report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, Nov. 1995. See also Economic Council of Canada, New Faces in the Crowd: The Economic and Social Impacts of Immigration, (Ottawa: Supply and Services Canada, 1991) [hereinafter New Faces in the Crowd].

7. Ather H. Akbari. "The Impact of Immigrants on Canada's treasury, circa 1990", in Diminishing Returns, D. DeVoretz ed., 1995, p.127 agrees with a previous study: "an average immigrant household entering Canada in 1990 was a profitable investment for original Canadian residents as a source of public fund transfers".

8. CICNet Publications. A Profile of Immigrants in Canada, 1997, p.7.

9. New Faces in the Crowd, supra note 6. Trends in International Migration Annual report 1996, (Paris: Organisation (OECD), 1997), p. 41.

10. Anthony Richmond, "Immigration and Structural Change: The Canadian Experience, 1971-1986" in International Migration Review, 26: 4 (winter 1994) p 1200.

11. Arun S. Roy. "Job displacement effects of Canadian immigrants by country of origin and occupation", International Migration Review, spring 1997. Don DeVoretz. Immigration and Employment Effects, (Ottawa: Institute for Research on Public Policy, November 1989).

12. C. Passaris. "The role of Immigration in Canada's Demographic Outlook", International Migration, Vol. 36(1) 1998. Don DeVoretz. Immigration to Canada: Economic Impacts, (Ottawa: Employment and Immigration Canada, 1989).

13. Carl Sonnen, Medium and Long-Term Macroeconomic Implications of Increased Immigration, (Ottawa: Infometrica, September 1989).

14. CICNet Publications. A Profile of Immigrants in Canada; M. Beiser, R. Dion, et al. "Immigrant and Refugee Children in Canada", Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, Mar. 1995.

15. CICNet Publications. A Profile of Immigrants in Canada, 1997, p.4. 81% of eligible immigrants had become Canadian citizens as of 1991.

16. Daiva K. Stasiulis, "Participation by Immigrants, Ethnocultural/Visible Minorities in the Canadian Political Process" (Paper presented at the Research Domain Seminar on Immigrants and Civic Participation: Contemporary Policy and Research Issues, Montreal, November 1997).

17. Derrick Thomas, "The Foreign Born in the Federal Prison Population" (Paper presented at the Canadian Law and Society Association Conference, Carleton University, 8 June 1993) - figures are for 1991; also John Samuel, "Debunking Myths of Immigrant Crime" Toronto Star, Jun. 17, 1998.

Canadian Council for Refugees
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Produced with support from the Canadian Race Relations Foundation and the Canadian Labour Congress.


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