Concerns about changes to the refugee determination system

Bill C-31 received Royal Assent on June 28, 2012. Most of its provisions relating to the refugee determination system were implemented on 15 December 2012.

The following are some of the CCR’s concerns.

1.      Hasty timelines deny refugees a fair chance to prove their claims

The new system imposes unrealistic deadlines on all refugee claimants. The short timelines will particularly disadvantage the most vulnerable refugees, including survivors of torture and rape, women with claims based on gender persecution, and refugees fleeing persecution on the basis of their sexual orientation.

  • Newly-arrived refugee claimants will have 15 days to deliver a written version of the basis of their refugee claim. This is not enough time to seek legal advice and respond to complicated legal requirements.
  • Refugee claimants will have their refugee hearing after 60 days. This is not enough time to collect documentary evidence.

2.      Some claimants will have fewer rights because they come from a “designated country of origin”

The amendments give the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration broad powers to designate countries of origin. Claimants from these countries will be subject to an even more expedited claim process that denies them a reasonable opportunity to prove their refugee claims (a hearing after 45 days, or 30 days in the case of an inland claim). They will also be denied a right of appeal to the Refugee Appeal Division, and face immediate deportation after a negative decision, even if they seek judicial review of the decision. These provisions increase the risk that mistakes will be made, without the opportunity for them to be corrected, leading to the deportation of refugees to a situation of persecution.

Claimants from designated countries of origin will also be deprived of basic and emergency health care (other than the treatment of conditions raising public health or safety issues).

3.      Some claimants will face mandatory detention, fewer rights in the refugee determination system and a long-term bar on permanent status, because they are “designated” as “irregular arrivals” by the Minister of Public Safety

The amended law gives the Minister of Public Safety broad, subjective discretion to designate two or more foreign nationals as a group of “irregular arrivals” based on administrative convenience or suspicion of “smuggling”. The consequences of this designation include:

  • mandatory detention for all persons aged 16 or older, with limited right of review;
  • no right of appeal to the Refugee Appeal Division
  • no access to permanent residence for a minimum of five years, even if accepted as refugees. This means no possibility to reunite in Canada with spouses and children.

On December 5, the Minister of Public Safety announced that he had designated five groups of people. Many children are involved.

Changes already in force

4.      One-year bar on access to Pre-Removal Risk Assessment (PRRA) for refused claimants

Since August 15, 2012, refused refugee claimants are not eligible for a Pre-Removal Risk Assessment for a year following refusal. In the case of claimants from a designated country of origin, the ban is for 3 years. This means that they have no opportunity to submit new evidence of risk that becomes available after the refusal and before removal.

5.      One-year bar on applications for humanitarian and compassionate consideration

Refused refugee claimants can no longer apply for humanitarian and compassionate consideration for one year following refusal, unless they are invoking best interests of the child arguments or a life-threatening medical condition. Designated Foreign Nationals cannot apply on any ground at all for five years. These changes mean that most people will have no avenue to present compelling humanitarian factors before removal.

Concerns about discourse

The CCR is deeply concerned at the negative way in which refugee claimants are discussed by the government. Making a refugee claim is a legitimate way, in both Canadian and international law, for a person fleeing persecution to seek asylum. Nor is it fair to characterize refused claims as false or abusive. The refugee definition is restrictive and technical. Many people making claims who do not meet the definition nevertheless have a genuine fear of persecution. Their search for protection is genuine. Constant negative references to refugee claimants undermine the independence of Canada’s refugee system and the support of Canadians for those who come to Canada hoping for safety and freedom, and to be treated with dignity.


For more information about the changes to the refugee system, see