Five years later, refugees are suffering the consequences of unfair and inefficient changes to the refugee system

Media Release

For immediate release
14 December 2017

Five years later, refugees are suffering the consequences of unfair and inefficient changes to the refugee system

On the eve of the fifth anniversary of major changes to Canada’s refugee determination system, the Canadian Council for Refugees highlighted the devastating human impacts of the changes on the lives of refugees and their families.

“The changes introduced on December 15, 2012 have caused and continue to cause great injustice to thousands of refugees,” said Claire Roque, CCR President. “We are very disappointed that the government has not made the reforms that everyone agrees will make the system not only fairer, but also more efficient.”

The following are the principal concerns of the CCR:

  • The Designated Country of Origin regime treats refugee claimants unequally based on where they come from. Some of the discriminatory aspects have been struck down by the courts as unconstitutional, but other rules remain in place, even though the government’s own evaluation found them counterproductive.
  • The strict legislated timelines have caused enormous hardship, with some claimants not given enough time to prepare for their hearing, and other claimants forced to wait years. With the increased numbers of refugees, the rules are completely unworkable, but remain in place creating confusion for everyone.
  • Some people with refugee claims in process five years ago (the so-called “legacy” backlog) are still waiting for a refugee hearing. Others have recently had their refugee claim rejected after five years of waiting, but as legacy claimants they cannot appeal the decision to the Refugee Appeal Division. After more than five years in Canada they have established themselves here and it would be inhumane to deport them, but they are generally barred from applying to remain on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.
  • Instead of introducing changes to make the system more fair and efficient, the government has launched the “IRB Review”, postponing necessary reforms. Despite the increased numbers of refugee claims, the government has not increased resources at the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB), leading to a rapidly growing backlog of claims. This means that refugees will wait years to be granted protection, separated from family members overseas who in many cases are at risk.

The CCR urges the government to:

  • Provide an alternative avenue to permanent residence for “legacy” claimants (recognizing that they have already waited too long and freeing up IRB resources to hear newer claims), and expedite family reunification for those long separated from spouse and children.
  • Provide additional resources to the IRB so that they can hear refugee claimants within a reasonable timeframe.
  • Make the necessary reforms to the refugee determination system so that it is fair and efficient, consolidating the role of the IRB as the independent expert tribunal responsible for refugee determination.

For more information:

Special measures urgently needed for “forgotten” refugees: the legacy claimants, 26 April 2017,

It’s Time to Lead: How Canada must respond to refugee claimants crossing the Canada-US border, 15 August 2017,


Colleen French, Communication Coordinator, 514-277-7223, ext.1, 514-602-2098 (cell),